Former doctor volunteers to tutor high-achieving Solana Beach students


By Matt Liebowitz


Brad Burnett’s resume could not possibly fit on one page.

Since graduating from University of Chicago medical school in 1962, the 20-year Rancho Santa Fe resident has practiced medicine everywhere from his hometown of Chicago to Sweden and Oxford, England, with stints in Los Angeles; Coos Bay, Oregon; Bakersfield; Minneapolis; and San Diego.

But 50 years split between urology and top-level health care administration has not put a hamper in his step. In fact, Burnett, who retired about 10 years ago from what he called “a rather peripatetic career,” is now looking to reignite a passion he’s held throughout his life. He wants to teach. Again.

Burnett has taught and lectured off and on since 2004, and is looking to start a tutoring service for high-achieving high school students. For free, Burnett wants to volunteer his time and expertise in all subjects for Solana Beach high school students whose excellence extends beyond the reach of what he said are the city’s over-extended teachers.

“The assumption is that bright kids learn on their own” and can be left alone in “traditional classrooms,” Burnett said. In doing so, however, “we’re wasting their potential,” and they never get a chance to reach their academic heights, to grow, to be fully challenged.

“My whole perspective is to challenge them to do more than what’s required, to teach more than what’s in the textbook,” he said. “There’s a lot of great information out there that kids never get.”

As he envisions it, Burnett’s classes will consist of three to five kids who are already excelling in school with grade point averages above 3.4. Burnett’s place in the puzzle, he said, is to act as mentor and coach, stimulating the promising scholars and pushing them towards insight and discovery through inspiration and real world exploration.

Enter, again, his resume — namely, his medical background and the unique perspective and context he’d be able to impart as someone who’s not only read the relevant texts, but been immersed in the field.

“I’m a scientist, it’s my religion,” Burnett said, “and the first rule of science is that there is no absolute truth. I want to make kids aware of that.”

There’s also his life-long love of history, a passion he’s eager to pass on, and one he sees as crucial to the greater education of the nation’s youth.

A hypothetical curriculum would see Burnett’s pupils examining not what he called the “rote” facts, but the political, economic and sociological implications of great historical events as discussed in books such as Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs, and Steel,” or Steven Ambrose’s “Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad, 1863-1869.”

It’s through books like these, and his watchful guidance in all subjects that Burnett said high-performing students could learn valuable lessons only perfunctorily covered in traditional textbooks.

Of course Burnett is not a stranger to the classroom. He has served as an assistant professor of urology at UCSD’s Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield, taught health care administration at Camp Pendleton’s Park University and human anatomy at Platt College in San Diego, and been a guest lecturer in physiology at The Grauer School and the Bishop’s School.

It’s this new venture, however, that Burnett is putting his weight behind. He believes the talents — and as importantly the curiosity — he’s accumulated in over half a century of experiential learning, be it gleaned while clothed in surgical scrubs or immersed in a book, are even more valuable when passed on to an eager mind.

“I want to find out what kids are interested in and take it down the road some distance,” Burnett said. Or, more simply, “I just want to make them smarter.”

For more information, contact Brad Burnett at