Skip to Main Content

Clarence Sasaki, MD, FACS

Charles W. Ohse Professor Emeritus of Surgery (Otolaryngology) and Senior Research Scientist

Biography

In Memoriam: Clarence T. Sasaki, MD '66

1941–2021


Clarence T. Sasaki MD, Charles W. Ohse Professor Emeritus of Surgery at the Yale School of Medicine, died peacefully on February 4, 2021. His prominent career is distinguished by his lifelong passion for the academic mission, and as a champion of surgical leadership at Yale. He was the longest serving chief of Otolaryngology, serving more than 30 years, between 1981 and 2012. Dr. Sasaki retired from his clinical practice in November 2020, after more than five decades of service; he maintained an active presence within the Department of Surgery as senior research scientist for the Division of Otolaryngology, and as a generous mentor, for which he will be remembered.

A native of Honolulu, HI, Dr. Sasaki received his BA from Pomona College in philosophy and medical degree from Yale School of Medicine (YSM) in 1966. Upon graduation, he was awarded the Keese Prize in Research. His formal medical education was interrupted during the Vietnam conflict; he served as Captain MC in the 95th Evacuation Hospital in DaNang, Vietnam, where his operative skills both matured rapidly out of necessity and earned him an Army Commendation Medal. He returned to Yale New Haven Hospital to complete his residency and joined the YSM Faculty upon completion of his training in 1973.

Dr. Sasaki rose quickly through the academic ranks to become chief of otolaryngology in 1981. For the next three decades, Dr. Sasaki led otolaryngology at Yale to preeminence, both nationally and internationally. He contributed to developing destination programs in head and neck cancer surgery, laryngology, and skull base surgery and he directed the care of thousands of patients under his wide-based referral practice. His clinical contributions and establishment of multidisciplinary disease management aided the development of Yale’s Head and Neck Cancer Program at Smilow Cancer Hospital.

In his lifelong devotion to scientific research and discovery, he served as principal investigator on eight NIH-funded grants, served full consecutive appointments as a member on three NIH Study Sections, and on the NIDCD Board of Scientific Counselors. Under his leadership his laboratory developed the first neurophysiologic model for laryngeal reflexes in SIDS, the first 2-deoxyglucose brain imaging model for central tinnitus, and recently developed a novel model for acidic bile-reflux induced carcinogenesis of the laryngopharynx. His passion for research and investigation resulted in publication of 420 journal manuscripts and six textbooks.

His long-standing interest in investigative surgery was recognized by the many awards he received. These include the American Academy of Otolaryngology’s First Prize in Research, the Triological Society’s Edmund Prince Fowler Award, the American Laryngological Association’s Casselberry Award, the American Broncho-Esophagological Association’s Broyles-Maloney Award, the Chevalier Jackson Award from the ABEA, the ALA Award, and the James E. Newcomb Award of the American Laryngological Association.

As Yale’s chief of otolaryngology, Dr. Sasaki had a formative role in training generations of otolaryngology residents and postdoctoral fellows who have gone on to remarkable careers in academic and private medicine.

“Dr. Sasaki’s legacy as a master surgeon and educator is a remarkable achievement that will continue to impact future generations of otolaryngologists. We are grateful for his many contributions to our field and to the Department of Surgery,” said Dr. Benjamin Judson, Division Chief of Otolaryngology.

The annual Clarence T. Sasaki Lectureship in the Department of Surgery was established in 2019 in recognition of these contributions.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Clarence T. Sasaki, MD, was a tenured Professor at Yale School of Medicine, Section of Otolaryngology. He received his BA from Pomona College in 1962 and his MD from Yale in 1966. He completed his residency at the Yale-New Haven Medical Center in 1973 and completed three clinical fellowships:

  1. International Union Against Cancer with Professor Ettore Bocca, Milan, Italy, 1978
  2. International Union Against Cancer with Professor Ugo Fisch, Zurich, Switzerland, 1982
  3. International Union Against Cancer with Mr. Dai Davies, London, England, 1986

Dr. Sasaki was listed in "Who's Who in the East," "Who's Who in America," "Who's Who in Cancer," "Who's Who in Medicine and Health Care," "Who's Who in Science and Engineering," and "Who's Who in the World." He was listed among Woodward&White's "Best Doctors in America," Castle Connolly's "Best Doctors in New York Metro Area," and Castle Connolly's "America's Top Doctors."

Dr. Sasaki developed Yale's Head and Neck Cancer Program and had a widely based referral practice for tumors of the sinuses, ear, throat, and neck.

Education & Training

  • Fellow
    University of London, England (1986)
  • Fellow
    University of Zurich, Switzerland (1982)
  • Fellow
    University of Milan, Italy (1978)
  • Chief Resident
    Yale-New Haven Medical Center, New Haven, CT (1973)
  • Assistant Resident
    Yale-New Haven Medical Center, New Haven, CT (1972)
  • Assistant Resident
    Dartmouth Medical Center, Hanover, NH (1968)
  • Intern
    University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco Hospital, San Francisco, CA (1967)
  • MD
    Yale University (1966)
  • BA
    Pomona College, Claremont, CA (1962)

Activities

  • Cancer of the Head and Neck, Laryngeal Physiology
    Kiel-Windeweer, Netherlands 2008
    Professor Sasaki is involved in a faculty and student research exchange with the Christian Albrechts University for five years focusing on head and neck cancer, sinus disease, and laryngeal physiology

Honors & Recognition

AwardAwarding OrganizationDate
Giotakis-Psyrri AwardHellenic Society of Head and Neck Cancer2016
Newcomb AwardAmerican Laryngological Association2014
Daniel C. Baker LecturerAmerican Laryngological Association2011
Broyles-Maloney AwardAmerican Broncho-Esophageal Association2011
ALA AwardAmerican Laryngological Association2010
Chevalier Jackson AwardThe American Bronchoesophagological Association2010
Chevalier Jackson LecturerAmerican Broncho-Esophagological Association2009
Guest of HonorAmerican Laryngological Association2008
The Broyles-Maloney AwardAmerican Broncho-Esophagological Association2004, 2018
The Casselberry Award American Laryngological Association1999
Edmund Prince Fowler AwardTriological Society1979
First Prize (Clinical Research)American Academy of Otolaryngology1972
Keese PrizeYale School of Medicine1966

Departments & Organizations