Dr. Claudius Conrad

University of illinois | Carle Health

  • Professor | Carle Illinois College of Medicine
  • Director | Translational Research
  • Medical Director | Surgical Strategy & Innovation

Board Certifications

General Complex Surgical Oncology
General Surgery

Prior Appointments

Professor of Surgery, Boston University

Assistant Professor, Department of Surgical Oncology, Division of Surgery MD Anderson Cancer Center

Instructor, Surgery Harvard Medical School

Affiliated Faculty Harvard Stem Cell Institute

Director and Co-Founder, Music in Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital

Education

Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich, Germany
Harvard Medical School, Boston

Internships and Residencies

General Surgery, Massachusetts General Hospital

Fellowships

Research Fellowship Harvard Stem Cell Institute

Surgical Oncology Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Minimally Invasive HPB Surgery, Institut Mutualiste Moutsouris, Paris, and University of Tokyo, Tokyo

Throughout his training and career, Dr. Conrad has pursued his passions, finding meaningful and lasting connections in seemingly unrelated areas. His work and interests have taken him not only to top medical programs, but also to famed concert hall stages. He has written leading medical textbooks and papers, improved surgical technology, and served as an expert and impartial medical witness. He has also provided options for less invasive surgery when it appeared none existed.

Two tenets continue to guide Dr. Conrad in these roles: a desire for excellence and a tireless commitment to patients. He can trace both principles to a young age.

Committing to Medicine, Music and Service

As a child in Germany, Dr. Conrad watched his father respond to the needs of their rural community with a switch from veterinary medicine to human nephrology. He also inherited a passion for music, learning piano at age 4 and going on to study at a series of conservatories.

Rather than choose between music and medicine, Dr. Conrad pursued both — first medical school in Germany, then a doctorate in musical science, followed by surgical residency at Massachusetts General Hospital. He studied the philosophical overlap between music and healing and began investigating the biological underpinnings of music’s apparent power to heal. He also co-founded and directed MGH’s Music in Medicine program, which seeks to use music to help patients and their families.

Read more about Dr. Conrad’s investigations into music in medicine

Expertise in Minimally Invasive Cancer Surgery

Initially thinking he would become a medical oncologist, Dr. Conrad earned a second doctorate, in adult stem cell biology. But he felt drawn toward surgery and its similarities to playing the piano: The complex movements required and the need to keep fingers trained and agile. The tactile sensitivity to strike keys just so or respond to resistance from tissue. And the aesthetic appeal of a precise performance or operation.

Dr. Conrad completed a surgical oncology fellowship at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, then wanted a less traumatic way to help patients with liver or pancreatic cancer. He pursued additional training at the Institut Mutualiste Moutsouris in Paris, home to the only laparoscopic fellowship focused on those organs in the world at the time, and went on to study with Japanese masters at the University of Tokyo.

Investigating Cancer’s Origins and Weaknesses

From the start, Dr. Conrad has sought to understand how cancer forms and spreads, then translate those findings into better care — a step many find challenging. His early work looked at turning stem cells into targeted therapy. More recently, his group has investigated novel therapeutics — what factors lead to some patients doing better and how to best pair surgery with other treatments.

Dr. Conrad has also worked with industry partners to develop new devices for surgery and improve imaging in the operating room with 3-D cameras and surgical instruments. He helped create innovative procedure planning software that allows surgeons to precisely construct virtual livers.

Read more in-depth about Dr. Conrad’s cancer research.

Looking for an environment that encourages innovation and always puts patients’ needs first, Dr. Conrad joined the University of Illinois and Carle Health in 2024, where the world’s first engineering based medical school facilitates an atmosphere of patient-centered innovation that ushers in the next generation of medical revolutions.

As a Carle Cancer Center surgical oncologist, Dr. Conrad always looks to respect patient goals and provide the most appropriate treatment. Sometimes that means standard open surgery. But when possible, he performs minimally invasive surgery — either by hand with laparoscopic tools or with robotic assistance.

As medical director of surgical strategy & innovation, as well as director of Translational Research for the Cancer Center at Illinois, Dr. Conrad leverages his clinical expertise in surgery, wide ranging research experience, and robust industry involvement to synthesize solutions that will transform cancer care. 

Learn more about Dr. Conrad’s minimally invasive HPB surgeries.