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 and is a conjoint clinical professor at the University of Sydney. He is the director of head and neck cancer research at the Sydney Head and Neck Cancer Institute (SHNCI) and head and neck research lead at the Royal Prince Alfred Institute of Academic Surgery (RPA-IAS). He was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2019 for his contribution to head and neck surgery and was appointed a master surgeon by the International Federation of Head and Neck Oncological Societies (IFHNOS). He has over 220 peer review publications, particularly in the fields of head and neck cancer genomics, metastatic skin cancer, oral cancer, facial reconstruction and patient education. He is a founding member of the Sydney Facial Nerve Service and chairman of Beyond Five, Australia’s head and neck patient education website.
Professor Clark’s undergraduate medical training took place at the University of NSW and he trained as a general surgeon before undertaking 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 Canada as part of the American Head and Neck Society advanced oncologic training program. He completed a postgraduate Masters of Biostatistics at the University of Sydney in 2012.
Professor Clark’s clinical focus is on surgery for salivary gland tumours, mouth cancer, digital planning for precision jaw reconstruction and dental rehabilitation, facial nerve reconstruction for cancer, and transoral robotic surgery (TORS) for throat cancer. He has a particular expertise in head and neck microvascular reconstruction and has trained over 30 international surgeons in these areas since commencing work at Royal Prince Alfred in 2006. Professor Clark spends his spare time fishing, but his greatest achievements are 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 my 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 salivary gland cancers, facial reconstruction, aggressive skin cancers and providing education and support for head and neck cancer patients and their carers.
The head and neck team started seeing patients in our multidisciplinary clinic in early 2014, soon after Lifehouse opened.
Chris O’Brien was one of my mentors. His vision for a comprehensive cancer centre is definitely something worth aspiring to, particularly for head and neck cancer which needs a comprehensive 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, dieticians 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 Vinci 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 structure 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, kayaking or both on the Port Hacking River, near where I live.