On 24 February 2022, Alan B. Retik, MD, Emeritus Urologist-in Chief at Boston Children’s Hospital and Emeritus Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School passed away. Alan was born and raised in New York City, received his B.A. from Cornell University, and his MD from Cornell University Medical School. Following internship and a year of surgical residency at the University of Rochester, he spent 2 years at the National Cancer Institute, surgical residency at the New England Medical Center, and urology residency at Peter Bent Brigham. He then spent a year in Pediatric Urology with David Innes Williams at The Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, London. Following an initial position in pediatric urology at the Boston Floating Hospital, he became Chief of Pediatric Urology at Boston Children’s Hospital in 1977 and in 2002 Surgeon-in-Chief.
A leader in urology and pediatric urology, Dr. Retik was the recipient of numerous distinguished awards including the American Academy of Pediatrics Pediatric Urology Medal and the American Urological Association Ramon Guiteras Award. He served his specialty in numerous leadership roles including President of the Society for Pediatric Urology and Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Urology. In 2005 Harvard Medical School established the Alan B. Retik, M.D. Professorship in Pediatric Urology. The Pediatric Urology Fellowship he established has trained 50 urologists, the vast majority now in academic centers, many in leadership roles. What follows is a statement from my Pediatric Urology colleague who worked with Dr Retik for many decades.
Ron Rabinowitz, MD
I have known Alan Retik for 50 years. We met when I was a first-year surgical resident going into Urology at Tufts New England Medical Center the following year. He received his urological training at the Brigham Hospital under Hartwell Harrison, worked in plastic surgery with Dr. Joseph Murray, who performed the first living kidney donor transplant in siblings (for which he won the Nobel Prize in Medicine), and learned the fine points of the then nascent specialty of Pediatric Urology from (Sir) David Innes Williams in London, before returning to Boston to begin his practice of pediatric urology at Tufts. It was difficult in those early years, as he had to compete with adult urologists and pediatric surgeons for patients, but slowly and surely, he achieved great success in this field as it blossomed into the specialty it is today.
If it wasn’t for his foresight and encouragement, I wouldn’t have had the career I had. He was a mentor to me, as he was to so many others during his illustrious career. Additionally, he was a colleague, friend and confidant. He always placed others ahead of himself, so the light of success would shine on them, and not him. He was magnanimous with his time, so young and old would benefit from his insights and wisdom. His humility was an endearing trait that was evident all his life. He cared for the specialty of pediatric urology, working to shape it into the subspecialty it is today. Some of the first Fellows to train in Pediatric Urology in the United States did so under his tutelage. Most of his trainees have remained in academic medicine, becoming leaders in their own right, and influential in their institutions, as they tried to emulate his achievements at Boston Children’s. He was a consummate, exacting surgeon who loved to teach surgical technique until the very end. He guided Boston Children’s down new pathways that would help it maintain its stature in the world, with programs such as developing a urodynamic suite entirely for children, initiating the ‘fetal care center’ for prospective parents whose unborn child was diagnosed with a urinary tract anomaly, creating international health partnerships to foster relationships with countries whose resources were limited, starting up satellite clinics so families did not have to travel into the inner cities where pediatric hospitals were located to receive care, and he ensured that pediatric surgery and pediatric urology could co-exist and thrive in the same institution as he maintained a relationship with several chiefs of Surgery during his tenure as chairman of the Department of Urology at Boston Children’s Hospital.
A giant among men, a ‘mensch’ to all, and a perfectionist to those who cared to achieve and be the very best they could be.
It is with deep sadness that I write this column about the life of Alan B. Retik, MD.
Stuart B. Bauer, MD
Professor of Surgery (Urology)
Harvard Medical School
Boston Children’s Hospital