Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

George Burton: A Notable Career

Story by Elena Cornwell

Born and raised in San Francisco, Calif., George Burton attended Mountain View Academy in Mountain View, and in 1956, graduated from Pacific Union College (PUC) near Angwin with a bachelor’s in speech and journalism.

The first of his family to do anything in the medical field, Burton found his way to medicine through his admiration of their family doctor. After finishing at PUC, he went first to Loma Linda University (LLU) for medical school, and then to Stanford for his residency. His next stop was the National Institutes of Health in Beltsville, Md., where he received the Pulmonary Award. A bit of work at the University of Pittsburgh, and then Burton found his way to LLU again as a faculty member in 1974.

Once there, Burton began to identify ways to help the university and the entire landscape of the allied health field, specifically in regards to pulmonary disease. Working together with therapist Alton Oschner, who actually identified that smoking and lung cancer were related, a two-year respiratory therapy care degree was born.

Writing Textbooks

At LLU, Burton found himself stuck using medical schoolbooks, written for future doctors to teach respiratory therapy concepts. It wasn’t content with the bandage-like situation, so he and Oschner wrote the first large textbook about respiratory therapy.

Now on its fifth edition, the textbook is one of 14 used all over the United States.

In 1983 Burton moved to Kettering, Ohio, as a professor and doctor at Kettering College, working tirelessly to teach his students not only book work, but also provide them an environment in which to grow as compassionate humans. “I’ve always loved teaching, and I love my students at Kettering,” shares Burton. “They are in the top 10 percent in the nation, and when we send out surveys to employers who have hired our students, they not only say they are prepared, but commend their true compassion.”

Last year Burton was honored by receiving the Legends in the Field Award. One of only five people to ever receive this prestigious recognition, he stands next to the likes of Forrest Bird, inventor of the Bird ventilator, and Thomas L. Petty, a pulmonologist who pioneered the amazing research done on AIDS-related lung disease.

Burton credits a speech class he took in college as a significant factor in getting him this far. “That class taught me more than anything. What we learned at PUC from Ted Benedict was worth every bit what we learned in the following years at medical school,” Burton explains. “Whether it applies to parents speaking to their kids or doctors convincing patients to take their pills, I learned how to convince people to do something.”

In addition to his enlightening speech class, Burton was the editor of the school newspaper and the college yearbook. His strong communication background is the foundation he stands on to write and communicate effectively in his field.

Staying Connected to God

In his life, Burton has found that his daily devotions are very important to maintaining his connection to God. Every morning, no matter where they are, he and his wife read a book together, and in doing so grow together. And, while personal devotions are good, Burton shares that his daily environment is quite helpful to his spiritual life as well. “Teaching at a Seventh-day Adventist institution, you can’t help but be connected to God’s people,” he says.

Burton attends Ohio Conference’s Kettering church and now teaches two half-days per week at Kettering College. He recently helped start a bachelor’s of science in respiratory care program at the college, and is also an honorary board member on the Kettering College Board of Directors.




George Burton Gets Personal


Visitor: What is your best time management tip?

B: Find what turns you on about a career that will keep you going. For me, it is the variety of my life. I need to have a native interest in it, have the aptitude for it, and maintain the variety.

V: What do you do in your free time?

B: I enjoy gardening, cooking and travel. Some of the favorite places I’ve visited are Russia and China.

Add new comment