January 24, 1941 ~ February 4, 2021

Born in: Honolulu, HI
Resided in: Branford, CT

Dr. Clarence Takashi Sasaki, age 80, the Charles W. Ohse Professor Emeritus of Surgery, Yale School of Medicine, passed away peacefully with his wife holding his hand on February 4, 2021 at Smilow Cancer Hospital. Clarence was born in January of 1941 in Honolulu, Hawaii to Tsutomu and Carla Sasaki. He attended ‘Iolani School and received his undergraduate BA degree in philosophy from Pomona College with cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa honors in 1962. He later noted that his interest in writing was stimulated by late Professor Frederick E. Sontag who “Gave me the power of the pen, the discipline to persuade and the courage to express myself in ways beneficial to my profession.” He then attended Yale School of Medicine where he obtained his MD 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 U.S. Army Captain MC at the 95th Evacuation Hospital in DaNang, Vietnam, where his operative skills matured rapidly out of necessity and earned him an Army Commendation Medal. He was honorably discharged with the rank of Major and returned to Yale-New Haven Hospital to complete his residency.

Upon completion of his training in 1973, Dr. Sasaki joined the Yale School of Medicine faculty and rose quickly through the academic ranks to become Chief of Otolaryngology in 1981. For the next three decades, as the longest serving Section Chief, Dr. Sasaki led otolaryngology at Yale to preeminence, both nationally and internationally. He contributed to developing destination programs in head & neck cancer surgery, laryngology, and skull base surgery as he directed the care of thousands of patients. 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 life-long devotion to scientific research and discovery, he served as Principal Investigator on eight NIH funded grants, served full consecutive appointments as member on three NIH Study Sections and on the NIDCD Board of Scientific Counselors. 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 interest in 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 James E. Newcomb Award of The American Laryngological Association.

Dr. Sasaki’s prominent career was distinguished by his dedication to the academic mission, and as a champion of surgical leadership at Yale. One of his true passions was mentorship and he had a formative role in training generations of medical students, otolaryngology residents and post-doctoral fellows who have gone on to remarkable careers in academic and private medicine. The annual Clarence T. Sasaki Lectureship in the Department of Surgery was established in 2019 in recognition of these contributions.

His colleagues at Yale and collaborators throughout the world will remember him as a dear friend, a dedicated physician, and classic automobile enthusiast who enjoyed exploring the globe in search of food and wine experiences as well as tending to gardens at home. Most importantly, Clarence, a fifty-year resident of Branford, CT, was a loving husband and a dedicated father. He is survived by his beloved family: his wife of 53 years, Carolyn; their two sons and their wives: Peter and Jackie, and John and Rachel; his brother Gordon and his wife Joanne; niece Lindsey Kogasaka, her husband Kendall, and their sons Sebastian and Theodore; nephew Matthew; sister-in-law Beth Lindahl; and brother-in-law Robert Lindahl.

Private services are in the care of BEECHER & BENNETT, 2300 Whitney Ave., Hamden. A memorial celebration will be scheduled for a later date. In lieu of flowers, contributions in memory of Dr. Clarence Sasaki can be made to The Fund for Yale New Haven Hospital, P.O. Box 1849, New Haven, CT 06508 or online at http://www.givetoynhh.org/. Contributions can also be made to the Division of Otolaryngology at Yale School of Medicine at https://medicine.yale.edu/about/giving/.

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  1. To The Family of Dr Sasaki: My deepest condolences on the passing of Dr Sasaki. I will forever have a special place in my heart and soul for Doc. In 1991, at the age of 36 he saved my life. He was the voice of reason and hope during a difficult time. I am sure there are many former patients like myself who have the same story.
    ‘ Thank You’ Doc…I know there is a vintage bottle of French wine waiting for you in Heaven.

    Joseph Gintoli, Bradenton, Florida

  2. Dr. Sasaki saved my dad’s life when I was 9 years old. Because of him, my dad now knows his grandchildren, my babies. I’m eternally grateful and am proud to make a donation to the Yale School of Medicine in Dr. Sasaki’s honor. My condolences to his entire family – what an incredible legacy he leaves behind.

  3. My heart felt condolences to Dr Sasaki’s family and colleagues. Dr. Sasaki performed surgery on me in December, 2014. I can still remember the 5 a.m. surgical rounds he made with his group of interns, residents and fellows. He was a consummate professional, dedicated and highly accomplished. He was always very serious but my goal at each office visit was to get him to smile or laugh My last visit with him was on January 8, 2020. At that time he said it had been 5 years since my surgery and would be my last visit with him. He said that if I had any problems in the future to call his office to schedule an appointment. Knowing that if I needed him he would be there gave me comfort. Little did I know it would be the last time I would ever see him. I am forever thankful to have had him as my surgeon. Prayers and love. 🙏🙏

  4. Terribly sad to read of Dr. Sasaki’s passing. Not only was Dr. Sasaki my surgeon and doctor, he was also my friend. We had many discussions about wine and Porsche’s. I once called him “The Samurai “, & at that point, he gave me the history of it. The last time, recently, we saw him on a video appointment, and he laughed and smiled. Dr. Sasaki will be forever remembered, and will always hold a special place in my heart.

  5. Dear Sasaki Family,
    Dr. Sasaki was my brother Peter’s surgeon approximately 20 years ago for a very complicated radical neck dissection. My brother often spoke of Dr. Sasaki both before and after this very successful surgery and sang his praises both as a skilled surgeon and wonderful person. To this day I remembered Dr. Sasaki’s name due to my brother’s fondness for him and for his skill in adding years to my brother’s life. My brother is now deceased but his family and I are indebted to Dr. Sasaki and are so grateful he was my brother’s surgeon. My condolences and sympathy to your entire family on the loss of this great man!

  6. Dr Sasaki and I were on parallel courses in different cities. He was Army and in Vietnam while I was Navy in submarines. I met him first as a new patient after I returned from Cincinnati to Branford, CT. He managed a slightly complicated case of oral cancer skillfully and with compassion several years ago. I am still alive today and forever grateful. Hail and farewell old friend.
    David P. Colley MD FACR

  7. To the Sasaki family I send my heartfelt condolences. Clarence was a Yale Medical Student in the class behind me and we went through our training at Yale and were later faculty colleagues at the medical school and Yale~New Haven Hospital. Clarence could always be counted on to help and his skills were superb. He patients and colleagues will never forget his skill and collaboration in teaching and in the hospital. Such a loss is so hard but I hope that his family finds solace in knowing how many lives he touched over the years.

  8. Dear Carolyn and Sasaki Family,
    It was with sadness that I heard of Clarence’s passing. Clarence and my dad, Dr. Eiji Yanagisawa, were friends and colleagues from residency and throughout their entire professional careers. I remember as a child, my father and Clarence took me fishing at Rainbow Lake, and still remember the thrill of catching my first trout like it was yesterday! As the Chief of the Yale ENT Section, he served as my mentor throughout my Yale ENT residency. He had the most gifted surgical hands I have ever worked with – he made everyone look good, and made surgery artful and graceful. I am proud and honored to have been trained by him, and to have had the privilege of learning my Otolaryngological skills from him. I miss you with fondness and respect Clarence. Thanks for everything you did for the Yale ENT program, all of the residents and faculty that you trained, and of course, all of the appreciative patients, many whose lives you saved.
    Ken Yanagisawa, MD, FACS

  9. I would like to express my sincere condolences to the family of Dr Sasaki on recent learning of his passing. He was the innovative force behind diagnosing,treating and planning a rehab program for my brother when he had developed oral cancer 17 yrs ago. Without his astute expertise my bother would not be here today. Thank-you Dr Sasaki and Gob Bless you Mary Monaco

  10. I am deeply saddened by the news of Clarence passing away and I would like to express my condolences to Carolyn and the Sasaki family. I am honored to have known Clarence and to work in his lab on the development of the first animal model of tinnitus. His vision and knowledge inspired me, not only to continue to work on tinnitus, but to make it the focus and passion of my professional career. He touched many lives in so many ways; he will not be forgotten and always remembers. I was humbled by his kindness, compassion and wisdom. Clarence had the unique ability to take a complex idea and expertly distill it down to the main key point and then explain it in one, concise statement. It is truly hard to say goodbye. He will be dearly missed and always fondly remembered.

    Pawel J. Jastreboff, Ph.D., Sc.D., M.B.A.

  11. To the Sasaki Family,
    Dr. Sasaki saved my life with a lifesaving larengectomy caused by vocal cord cancer. He was such a wonderful, talented Doctor. People came from all over the world to receive treatment/surgery from him.
    He was always so serious while He was examining me. I was one of the rare patients who could make him smile and laugh.
    When I was a patient at Smilow I was always impressed by the group of student/doctors that would do the morning rounds with him he was such an inspiring role model/ Doctor/teacher.
    Anyone that trained with him was so lucky to observe a genius at life saving work.
    The dedication towards the lives he saved over the years are countless I’m sure.
    I was very upset about his passing . I truly felt a true bond with him.
    God Bless you Dr. Sasaki may you Rest In Peace knowing you saved countless number of lives including mine.
    Forever great full,
    David Patrie

  12. I extend my deepest condolences to Mrs. Sasaki and her family on the passing of Dr. Sasaki. As a patient of his, I am and always will be deeply grateful to him for his care and treatment of me. He was truly a gifted and extraordinary doctor and surgeon. I will also always remember him coming to see me every morning at Smilow, at about 5 AM, with his very attentive entourage of his students, interns and residents. He has left an indelible impression on me. Sam Teller

  13. It was my first job when I worked in the ENT Department of Yale School of Medicine in 1972. I was a secretary to Dr. Sasaki and other physicians. He was a very kind, friendly and a brilliant physician. I am so saddened to hear he is gone. May he rest in peace.

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