It is always difficult to know how good your physician is going to be. I have a list of physicians on this site, though I do not know all of them personally. I know that they have in some way hung out their shingle and said “I do voice work.” That gives every physician who wants to do voice work somewhat of an even chance at starting a medical practice, but doesn’t help the consumer.
Word of Mouth
This is not an unreasonable way of checking out your doctor. If they are in an academic institution, the residents or nursing staff may have the most insightful view of a particular physician.
Patient referrals by someone who has visited and been examined and treated by a physician seems to carry a lot of clout. It is evident to me that a physician’s bedside manner is more effective in making patients happy than actual technical or diagnostic skill. So in the end recommendations are representative of how nice a person the physican is and perhaps not always reflective of his/her technical skill.
Judging your visit after the fact
I believe it is reasonable to expect the following from your physician - though you likely will not get all of this in one person. Perhaps these thoughts will help you evaluate your own physician.
Time spent with you
Your physician should be able to take the time to review the video photos with you and come up with a plausible explanation of what your problem is and how to treat it. It should make sense, even to you. The physician should be able to tell you things about your voice and you should feel, “ah ha”, he/she understands my problem. The voice box is really not mystical, it is mechanical and mechanical things make sense. All the pieces of the puzzle should fit together.
Don’t hesitate to get one. Especially if you are not clear on things. Especially if your physician doesn’t specialize in voice issues. Especially if recommended treatments are not helping you. Especially if your physician doesn’t want you to get one and you are worried - get one. Feel free to review the ideas on this and other web sites about surgery and treatments.
Signs of concern
Vocal cord stripping
If your physician uses these words - vocal cord stripping - in the context of your vocal cords, finish the visit, thank the doctor and then look elsewhere for care for your vocal cords. You do not want anyone stripping off the delicate lining of your vocal cords. You might also be concerned about variations on this word, like scraping. Words like delicate trimming, precise excision might be more reassuring.
Your physician saw a bump but cannot reasonably demonstrate how that bump is impairing your voice. That is a “Red Herring”. Bumps are not always the cause of a vocal problem. That is the problem with looking and not listening. A bump in a given place, will cause a given change in your voice.
The Team Approach
Many institutions and some clinics have instituted the “Team approach”. Yes, there are times when many minds are better than one, though there are times when one mind is better than many. To use the analogy that your disease is a puzzle, I think a puzzle might be more rapidly put together by a group of people. That is, the belief of the clinic where one person gets your history, another person looks at your vocal cords, another person runs a group of tests on your voice and a physician comes in at the end and summarizes everyones recommendations as a plan for you.
I think the game of chess might be a better analogy here to voice problems. I suspect a game of chess is seldom better played by a team than by a single astute player. With complex problems, like chess and like the voice, one person seeing the whole problem often leads to a correct insight into the strategy of the opponent or in this case: the cause of the vocal problem. Putting together peoples behavior patterns, audible changes in the quality of the voice and understanding the complex movements of the muscles and lining of the voice box takes a bit of insight. There are still a great many unknown things and partially known things about the voice that require intuitiveness to ferret out. Additionally, when the main person listens to the patient, analyzes the voice and looks for the problem; they learn what groups of things go together and their knowledge is constantly growing and changing.
Like chess, perhaps someday, someone will be able to program a computer to check out a great many details about the voice, process the results and be a better than average “diagnostician”. For now though, you want a good physician with a great deal of interest in your voice.