Professor Jonathan Clark AM
Director of Head and Neck Research
Lang Walker Family Foundation Chair in Head and Neck Cancer Reconstructive Surgery
MBBS (Hons Class 1), BSc(Med), MBiostat, FRACS AM
Phone: (02) 8514 0131
Fax: (02) 9383 1131
Professor Clark holds consultant positions in Head and Neck Surgery at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and Royal Prince Alfred hospitals. He is conjoint Chair and Clinical Professor at the University of Sydney, Director of Head and Neck Cancer Research at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, and Director of Translational Research at the Royal Prince Alfred Institute of Academic Surgery (RPA-IAS). His titles include Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2019, inaugural Lang Walker Family Foundation Chair in Head and Neck Cancer Reconstructive Surgery in 2020, Master Surgeon by the International Federation of Head and Neck Oncological Societies (IFHNOS) in 2020, and Honorary Member of the Australian Society of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery (ASOHNS) in 2021 for his contributions to head and neck surgery. Professor Clark has over 300 peer review publications, particularly in the fields of metastatic skin cancer, oral cancer, jaw reconstruction, and facial reconstruction. He also leads the multi-institutional Cancer Institute NSW (CINSW) head and neck cancer translation research program. He established the Integrated Prosthetics and Reconstruction program in 2021, which combines advanced multidisciplinary reconstructive techniques and translational research with 3D printing of customised medical devices at the point of care.
Professor Clark’s undergraduate medical training took place at the University of NSW. He trained as a general surgeon before commencing head and neck subspecialty training at St Vincent’s, Royal Prince Alfred (under the late Professor Chris O’Brien), and Westmead Hospitals in Sydney. He undertook a two-year fellowship in head and neck oncologic and reconstructive surgery at the Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, University Health Network, Toronto in Canada as part of the American Head and Neck Society advanced oncologic training program. He commenced as consultant surgeon at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in 2006 and then completed a postgraduate Masters of Biostatistics at the University of Sydney in 2012.
Professor Clark’s surgical expertise focusses on salivary gland tumours, precision jaw reconstruction, and transoral robotic surgery (TORS). He has trained over 40 international surgeons in these techniques as part of the highly sought-after Sydney Head and Neck Cancer Institute (SHNCI) Fellowship program. Professor Clark spends his spare time fishing, but his goal is to spend more time with his three sons: Harrison, Jacob, and Sebastian.
Q&A with Professor Jonathan Clark
Clinical Professor. I direct the Fellowship training program and research program in head and neck cancer at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.
I completed a medical degree at the University of NSW in 1997, and obtained my general surgery fellowship (FRACS) in 2005 which included provisional fellowship training in head and neck surgery under the late Professor O’Brien. I undertook a fellowship in head and neck oncological surgery and microvascular reconstruction at the University of Toronto between 2004 and 2005 before starting as a head and neck surgeon at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in 2006. I completed a postgraduate Masters degree in Biostatistics at the University of Sydney in 2012.
As an intern at St. George and Sutherland Hospitals.
I remove tumours affecting the mouth, throat, face, salivary glands and thyroid. I also use tissue from other parts of the body to reconstruct the area removed. I don’t do brain surgery, trauma surgery or spine surgery. Head and neck cancers are some of the most challenging cancers to treat because they affect how patients look, talk, eat food and breathe. Sometimes patients are left disfigured, socially isolated, unable to return to work and require a lot of support. Even though these cancers have an enormous impact on the lives of so many people (not just patients but also their friends and family), there is surprisingly little public awareness, other than what people see on cigarette packets.
Time management. Full time clinical practice and research is difficult.
It is a major challenge to reconstruct the face after removal of a cancer. Doing this well is very satisfying. I also enjoy researching better ways of treating head and neck cancers. Our research focuses on reducing the side effects of radical head and neck cancer treatment, so that patients can reintegrate back into their lives and relationships.
The head and neck team started seeing patients in our multidisciplinary clinic in early 2014, soon after Chris O’Brien Lifehouse opened.
Chris O’Brien was one of my mentors. His vision for a comprehensive cancer center is definitely something worth aspiring to, particularly for head and neck caner which needs a multidisciplinary and holistic approach. The ability to treat all patients with cancer in one institution, regardless of whether they are public or private, with the support of radiation specialists, medical oncologists, pathologists, nurses, dietitians and speech therapists (to name a few) and to integrate the research we undertake into their care really is unique.
It is also really important to be able to offer patients world class, cutting edge cancer treatment like the da Vince robot which enables surgeons to remove cancer from the back of the tongue or throat without having to cut the jaw bone. Apart from the obvious cosmetic and functional advantages of leaving vital structures intact, it can reduce the length of surgery from 10 hours to under four hours and the hospital stay from over two weeks on average to under one week.
Getting home on time to see my three sons…occasionally.
Go fishing on the Port Hacking River, near where I live.