Making a Difference – Research Scholar

Peter N. Bretan, Jr., MD

Urologist and Former Research Scholar Wins Award for a Lifetime of Charity Work

It’s not every day you meet a former Urology Care Foundation Research Scholar who is a former child farm laborer with a black belt.

Dr. Peter N. Bretan, Jr. is all of those things. He is also a urologist and kidney transplant surgeon. He has been serving the needs of people his whole life.

This past fall, the American Medical Association (AMA) awarded Dr. Bretan with the Benjamin Rush Award for Citizenship and Community Service for his outstanding work in renal transplant surgery and urology, in addition to his disaster relief efforts around the globe. He is the founder of Life Plant International, a charitable organization that promotes disaster preparedness, organ donation and early disease screening worldwide. He was also a lead surgeon for Hurricane Katrina relief in 2005, as part of “Team Orleans.”

As a child of Filipino immigrants, he found his career goal at 8-years old. This was when a doctor from University of California, Los Angeles performed an innovative surgery to save his father’s life. “I looked at surgeons as angels, as heroes,” he said. “It was my focus to be a surgeon after seeing my father’s life saved. I never forgot my roots after that.”

In 1987, Dr. Bretan earned what is now known as a Urology Care Foundation Research Scholarship.

“When I was applying for the urology residency at University of California, San Francisco, the chairman at the time (Dr. Emil Tanagho) asked me why I wanted to be a surgeon. I told him to save lives. And he told me if I entered research I might develop a vaccine and save thousands of lives. The sky would be the limit.”

With Dr. Tanagho’s wisdom, Dr. Bretan joined academic research. Today, Dr. Bretan is very active in health policy as part of his leadership roles at the AMA and California Medical Association.

“The research scholarship taught me to be a basic scientist and gave me the discipline to analyze scientific data. I think this background makes me who I am today,” he said. “Health policy is where I think I can save the most lives right now.”