Skip to main content UVA Health logo of UVA Health
Healthy Balance

7 Quick Questions With Head & Neck Cancer Expert Jonathan Garneau, MD

Otolaryngologist Jonathan Garneau, MD

Otolaryngologists treat and manage conditions involving the ear, nose, and throat (ENT). Most ENT specialists can provide medical and surgical care for the head and neck area. These providers can also help diagnose and treat head and neck cancers.

Meet Otolaryngologist Jonathan Garneau, MD

Otolaryngologist Jonathan Garneau, MD, specializes in head and neck cancer. This ENT surgeon also treats noncancerous tumors in the head and neck region.

1. Why did you become a doctor/provider?

Both of my parents are physicians, and therefore my exposure to the medical field was early and unavoidable. Over the years, I saw my parents obtain great reward from what they were doing and their interactions with people.

Also, they exhibited the lifelong learning aspect that comes with being a physician — research, teaching, and incredible advancements for complex diseases that have a direct impact on patient care.

I was drawn to the medical profession for all of these reasons. As much as I tried to branch out to other possible professions, I was always drawn back to medicine. 

2. Why did you choose otolaryngology and head and neck cancer?

The field of otolaryngology is incredibly diverse, despite it being a sub-specialty. The variety of conditions within the head and neck region that we treat across all different ages is a major draw to those choosing our field during medical school.

I chose to specialize in head and neck cancer surgery because of the long-term patient care that is established. Also, the field of head and neck surgery has made significant strides in research of cancer treatment. It continues to have incredible potential for improvement and advancement. The scope of practice and the patient relationship were major factors in choosing this wonderful specialty.

3. What’s one thing about your specialty that might surprise people?

The scope and adaptability of our practice. Many may think otolaryngology or ENT confines us to a small region of the body. However, many of us extend well beyond those anatomic limitations.

Reconstructive surgery is a major facet of our training which frequently takes us to other areas of the body — the upper and lower extremities, chest, or shoulder. This allows us to rebuild the head and neck region in order to re-establish its functional state after tumor removal.

In addition, we frequently work with many other surgical disciplines such as neurosurgeons, thoracic surgery, and vascular surgery. This happens when conditions of the head and neck extend beyond certain boundaries and requires a team effort with additional expertise.

4. What’s the most exciting research happening in your field right now?

In the field of head and neck cancer, the most cutting edge and exciting advancement to me is the potential of immunotherapy for treatment of cancer. Immunotherapy represents a novel cancer treatment that has shown remarkable efficacy in a variety of cancers across the body.

Specifically, within head and neck cancer, it has been applied in select cases when other conventional treatments options have not had the success that we’ve expected. Furthermore, we are looking at ways to understand the optimal timing of immunotherapy via clinical trials, which may change the landscape and certain paradigms of how we treat head and neck cancer in the future.

5. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Rochester, NY, known for the snowy winters, but beautifully mild summers!

6. Who is your inspiration or hero?

Head or Neck Cancer Diagnosis?

Our surgeons are experts in minimally invasive treatments and reconstruction.

My grandfather. This may sound cliché to pick a family member, but my grandfather always did and currently does exhibit qualities I try to emulate daily.

He immigrated to the US from Athens, Greece, and learned fluent English quickly as he enrolled in college and then graduate school for physics. He was a physicist for Kodak and raised a family of three daughters.

My grandfather has a constantly curious mind, always fascinated by how things work, how processes can be modified and our daily lives could be made easier or more successful with innovation.

He exemplified that innovation requires collaboration and learning about other disciplines outside of one’s own expertise in order to fully grasp how to improve upon the current state. As a result, he is a wonderfully well-rounded individual and remains an inspiration of mine.

7. What’s your favorite thing about working at UVA?

The collegial atmosphere. Everyone is extremely dedicated and invested in every aspect. Collaboration and team work happen organically and that is a result of the environment of the entire institution.

View Transcript

I'm Jonathan Garneau and I'm a head and neck surgeon in the department of otolaryngology. Typical conditions I treat are cancerous and non-cancerous conditions of the head and neck, typically of the aerodigestive system, the endocrine system, as well as the reconstruction afterwards, after removal of benign or malignant tumors. I had very early exposure to a family friend who was a head and neck surgeon. And I had the ability to work with him in the operating room and his clinic. And I saw the impact he had on his patients was remarkable, but most importantly, he was very good with patients. Patients really loved him. It really set head and neck surgery apart from other surgical fields, the type of rich relationship you can have with patients and follow them long-term throughout their care. The same condition may impact or affect patients in totally different ways, based on everyone's unique social condition, their expectations, and their goals. That's what I'm passionate about is understanding and eliciting those concerns and addressing those concerns as they come up. So I think what sets UVA apart from the rest is that you get a team approach. It's a dedicated team of physicians, nurses, and clinical staff. And I think that when you have complex conditions, they can be as seamless as possible at a comprehensive medical center with a very invested team that takes this responsibility very seriously, but also really enjoys it. So I think that's what really sets UVA apart from the rest and distinguishes it among other medical institutions.

Reply & View Comments Search Submit

Subscribe for Updates

Get stories & health tips every week