John Watkinson – Biography

Written by The Royal Society of Medicine

Mr John Watkinson qualified from the Royal Free Hospital, London in 1979, and trained in ENT, head and neck and plastic surgery at Guy’s Hospital and The Royal Marsden. He has fellowships in general surgery and otolaryngology, an MSc in nuclear medicine and MS in surgery. He is an elected member (by thesis) of both the American Triological Society and the American Head and Neck Society. He held visiting professorships at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, and then Duke in North Carolina, USA before completing his training with a further plastics fellowship at Canniesburn Hospital, Glasgow. 

He was a consultant head and neck and thyroid surgeon at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, University of Birmingham NHS Trust from 1992 to 2017, and consultant thyroid surgeon at The Royal Marsden Hospital, London from 2016 to 2017. He is currently honorary paediatric head and neck and thyroid surgeon at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), and lectures in Anatomy at University College London (UCL), London.

He had a large thyroid clinical and research practice, supervised over 30 higher degrees and in 1998 was hospital surgical doctor of the year. He has published on all aspects of head and neck and thyroid surgery; organised the Birmingham head and neck course from 1997 to 2006 and is chief editor of several major textbooks including Scott Brown, Stell and Maran, Tips & Tricks in Endocrine Surgery, and has edited the latest neck section in Gray’s Anatomy. He was president of the British Association of Head and Neck Oncologists from 2009 to 2011, president of the British Association of Endocrine and Thyroid Surgeons from 2011 to 2013 and is the first ENT surgeon to hold that honour.

He was president of the Royal Society of Medicine Laryngology Section from 2014 to 2015. He has been involved in a number of national guidelines including The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), British Thyroid Association (BTA), British Association of Head and Neck Oncologists (BAHNO), Data for Head and Neck Oncology (DAHNO) and ENT-UK, and was awarded a Huntarian Professorship in 2009 from The Royal College of Surgeons of England. He was appointed by Dame Tessa Jowell to serve on the Administration of Radioactive Substances Advisory Committee (ARSAC) for the government from 1994 to 2002. From 2003 to 2010 he was an examiner for the Part III Fellowship of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons FRCS-ORL Exam. In 2015, he was awarded the Jobson Horne Prize by the British Medical Association (BMA) for his lifetime achievement contribution to medicine in ENT, and in 2019 was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the president and counsel of BAHNO. John was also a member of the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) and Northern Institute for Cancer Research (NICR) national committees. 

Mr John Watkinson has given a number of eponymous lectures including the Stell memorial lecture in 2005, John Palmer in Toronto in 2007, the Leegard lecture in 2009, Huntarian in 2009, the Wilde Discourse in 2011, RSM Presidential Address in 2014, and the Thomas Tatum Lecture in 2016. In 1994, together with Adrian Drake-Lee, the Warwickshire Cricketers, Dr Hilary Jones, the late Roy Castle and Peter Scudamore he co-founded The Get A-Head Charitable Trust (

He is married with two children, enjoys travelling, watching all sports, fishing and fine wine!