I am deeply saddened to notify you of the passing of one of American Laryngological Association’s (ALA) distinguished Active Fellows, Clarence T. Sasaki, MD on February 4, 2021. Inducted in 1981, Dr. Sasaki served the Association admirably for 40 years including on the Council, Vice-President/President-elect and was elected President in 2012.
A native of Honolulu, he graduated from Pomona College with a Bachelor Arts degree in Philosophy. His medical career began with the earning of his medical degree from Yale School of Medicine in 1966 where he was awarded the Keese Prize in Research. During the Vietnam Conflict, Dr. Sasaki served as Captain MC in the 95th Evacuation Hospital in DaNang where he received the Army Commendation Medal. Following his service, he returned to Yale New Haven Hospital to complete his residency and remained there on the faculty in 1973. Eight years later, he was selected as chief of otolaryngology at Yale where his prominent career was distinguished by his lifelong passion for the academic mission and as a champion of surgical leadership.
He served as chief of otolaryngology for more than 30 years by leading Yale’s Otolaryngology to national and international excellence. Retiring from clinical practice in November 2020, Dr. Sasaki continued to be an active presence as senior research scientist for Otolaryngology and a mentor to many.
Dr. Sasaki’s contributions to developing destination programs in head and neck cancer surgery, laryngology, and skull base surgery by directing the care of thousands of patients under his wide-based referral practice were recognized. His clinical contributions and establishment of multidisciplinary disease management aided the development of Yale’s Head and Neck Cancer Program at Smilow Cancer Hospital. Other noteworthy contributions included his laboratory developing 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. The annual Clarence T. Sasaki Lectureship in the Department of Surgery was established in 2019 in recognition of these contributions.
This passion for research and investigation resulted in the publication of 420 journal manuscripts and six textbooks. Dr. Sasaki’s longstanding interest in investigative surgery was recognized by the many awards he received including 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 American Broncho-Esophagological Association, the American Laryngological Association Award, and the James E. Newcomb Award of the ALA.
As Yale’s chief of otolaryngology, Dr. Sasaki had a formative role in training generations of otolaryngology residents and postdoctoral fellows who now have remarkable careers in academic and private medicine. To have remarkable achievements as a master surgeon and an educator, the impact on future generations of otolaryngologists will be well remembered and documents for decades. The ALA is grateful for Dr. Sasaki’s contributions and his loss will be felt by all whose presence he graced.
At this time, a Celebration of Life service for Dr. Sasaki has not been scheduled. Please keep Mrs. Sasaki and the Sasaki family in your thoughts and prayers. Cards of condolences and memorial messages may be forwarded to Halley Hebert, Yale School of Medicine, P O Box 20804, New Haven, CT 06520 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.