Dr. Gerald Maguire
Dr. Gerald Maguire treats stuttering patients around the world via telemedicine. Paul R. Kennedy

Dr. Gerald Maguire started the world’s first clinic dedicated to the medical care of stuttering, and if patients in faraway places can’t come to his UC Irvine Medical Center office for treatment, he brings it to them.

Through telemedicine, Maguire and his team at the Center for the Medical Treatment of Stuttering can now provide real-time treatment for patients via video monitors, giving new hope to millions of people around the world whose quality of life suffers from chronic stuttering disorders.

“So far, I’ve worked with patients as far away as London and South Africa,” says Maguire. “Technology has provided wonderful new opportunities for people who stutter to receive state-of-the-art medical treatment where none was available before.”

The UCI center features a telemedicine linkup administered by Doctors Telehealth Network. Maguire and his team connect with patients throughout the world via high-speed Internet computer connection and Web cam. Maguire then follows up with the patients’ local doctors to prescribe medical treatment.

Maguire leads the field in discovering and testing medications to control stuttering. His center is the first in the world dedicated to improving speech fluency through pharmacologic treatments, and he currently leads international clinical trials on promising new drugs that curb stuttering with fewer side effects.

“By using telemedicine, we have the potential to enroll many more patients in these innovative drug trials and provide for them the latest and best in medical care for stuttering problems,” Maguire says.

Stuttering affects nearly 3 million Americans – about 1 percent of the adult population and an even higher percentage of children. Most individuals who stutter and have access to healthcare seek some form of speech therapy, with varied results. But for people who have persistent stuttering problems, cutting-edge medical treatments that focus on the neurological roots of stuttering are proving effective.

Maguire, who stutters himself, understands the frustration and social anxiety that can result. “Simple tasks like speaking on the telephone can exacerbate stuttering and contribute to elevated levels of anxiety,” he says.

“But we have learned that stuttering is not the result of nervousness or stress, and that there is a neurological basis for the disorder. By understanding this, we are making great advances in treating stuttering through medical means; and having the ability through telemedicine to reach more people, we are making an impact and a difference.”