Robert W. Bastian, M.D. was rated by Chicago magazine as one of “Chicago’s Top Doctors,” and by Castle-Connolly as one of “America’s Top Doctors.” He is also the recipient of the Honor Award for teaching contributions to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, as well as, in 2010, the Distinguished Service Award.
Dr. Bastian has developed and directed multidisciplinary teams to consider patient disorders from three perspectives: behavioral, medical, and surgical. In all of Dr. Bastian’s professional activities—whether consulting with patients, operating, researching, writing, or teaching—patients come first.
He was arguably the first in North America to promote the voice-restoring possibilities of vocal fold microsurgery in singers with otherwise irreversible disorders. An independent thinker, Dr. Bastian began this work at a time when this sort of surgery was widely perceived – even condemned by experts – as unsafe to the voice in that population. To date, he has one of the premier North American experiences with this kind of surgery, having operated on an estimated 1,200 singers with diverse vocal fold problems, not to mention thousands of non-singers.
Beginning in 1983, through his many lectures, later through courses taught at the American Academy of Otolaryngology, teaching of residents, and his hosting of numerous visitors to his practice, Dr. Bastian is also considered by many to be the North American leader and catalyst for the current return of office-based surgery (e.g. biopsy, injection, laser treatment) of the larynx and pharynx as a cost-effective, efficient, and safe alternative to surgery in the operating room under general anesthesia.
Dr. Bastian also innovated a comprehensive and often stand-alone method of swallowing evaluation called the videoendoscopic swallowing study (VESS). He was among the first handful of physicians to use botulinum toxin to treat a rare neurological voice disorder called spasmodic dysphonia, which is caused by laryngeal dystonia. His lifetime caseload is comprised of more than 1,500 patients, and represents one of the world’s largest series.
For a particular swallowing disorder called cricopharyngeus dysfunction, Dr. Bastian has been in the vanguard in the Midwest of the trend to use through-the-mouth laser surgery rather than traditional surgery through a neck incision. The caseload he shares with Dr. Richardson is believed to be the largest series in the Chicago metro area.
More than 15 years years ago, Dr. Bastian discovered a previously undescribed neurogenic form of coughing, which he terms “sensory neuropathic cough.” Building on this discovery, Bastian Voice Institute has attracted a patient population of as many as 1,000 from as far away as Brazil.
Dr. Bastian’s reputation is also based on his noteworthy experience in several additional areas:
- Larynx cancer surgery, both traditional and endoscopic (laser).
- Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP), with a BVI caseload of more than 150 adult patients, and interest in various adjuvant treatments such as cidofovir, artemisinin, and avastin.
- Vocal fold paralysis, with an estimated 1,000 operated on for this condition.
- Non-organic and functional voice disorders.
Dr. Bastian was trained in medicine and surgery at Washington University Medical School in St. Louis, Missouri. His mentor there was Dr. Joseph Ogura, the world-famous pioneer of conservation laryngeal cancer surgery. Prior to forming BVI, Dr. Bastian completed a successful 20-year academic medical career first at Washington University, St. Louis, and then at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois. During his 16 years at Loyola he trained numerous residents and medical students as well as fellows and visiting physicians and speech pathologists from many countries.
Dr. Bastian’s passionate interest in the voice flowed initially from his own singing training and experience. He studied singing with James Wilson, Greenville College; Dale Moore, Southern Illinois University and Washington University; Edmund LeRoy of Conservatory and Schools for the Arts, St. Louis; and Edward Zambara, at the same institution. A subset of his patients are singers, from the worlds of both opera/classical and popular music.