James Clune, MD, is a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, a melanoma surgeon and an upper extremity specialist who performs over 800 procedures per year. He treats patients who have cancer and those who have been through traumas. He is highly skilled in performing surgery for the face and extremities, and in peripheral nerve reconstruction.
Some of Dr. Clune’s surgeries are highly complex. For instance, when a person loses a limb in a traumatic accident or due to a tumor, he may be part of a team that helps reroute nerves. He is skilled in performing targeted muscle reinnervation, which involves implanting residual nerves from an amputated limb to allow the patient to utilize an advanced myoeletric prosthesis instead. If a patient has lost a finger, Dr. Clune may be part of a surgical team that transfers a toe to replace it.
At the Yale Cancer Center, he also treats patients with skin cancer, and soft tissue and nerve tumors, performing surgeries to restore both function and appearance. “I really enjoy working with the melanoma team,” says Dr. Clune. “I am able to be a part of the patient’s care from start to finish. We formulate a surgical plan together, perform the resection and reconstruction and then guide patients through the healing process.”
Dr. Clune is an assistant professor of plastic surgery at Yale School of Medicine and recipient of the 2017-18 teaching award in his specialty. Before becoming a plastic surgeon, he spent four years working with Operation Smile, an international nonprofit that provides cleft lip and palate surgeries for children in developing countries. “I had the opportunity to work in 18 countries over this time period and helped coordinate care for thousands of children with congenital deformities,” he says. “To see a child have life-altering surgery regain form and function, and then to see them thrive in a society that once shunned them inspired me to dedicate my career to helping patients using plastic surgery.”
After medical school, Dr. Clune completed a postdoctoral research fellowship at Harvard. His six years of training in plastic surgery and melanoma surgery were completed at Yale, followed by an orthopedic fellowship in upper extremity surgery at the University of California, Irvine. This was followed by a fellowship in Spain in complex microsurgery for the upper and lower extremity, and brachial plexus reconstruction. Dr. Clune’s research on melanoma, upper extremity and nerve surgery has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals. He continues to pursue answers to clinical problems in the laboratory.