Grey's Anatomy Universe Wiki

I wasn't the most talented student in school. I wasn't the brightest. But I was the best. I practiced.
Preston Burke

Preston Burke is a cardiothoracic surgeon. He was formerly head of cardiothoracic surgery at Seattle Grace Hospital, but quit after leaving his fiancée, Cristina Yang, during their wedding. After winning a Harper Avery, he founded the Klausman Institute for Medical Research, and ran it until he gave it to Cristina.


Early Life[]

Preston grew up in Alabama, where his mother owns a restaurant.

Before going to his high school prom, he was very nervous because he didn't know how to dance. He asked his uncle, who is good at dancing, to help him. His uncle agreed and taught him a few basic moves. He stayed up nights before the prom practicing his dance moves because he wanted to impress his date. On the night of the prom, it all worked out and he didn't step on his date's feet while dancing and she said that he was a wonderful dancer.[1]


He completed his pre-medical studies at Tulane University where he pledged Kappa Alpha Psi and went on to graduate first in his class from Johns Hopkins Medical School. While in college, he met Erica Hahn, who graduated in second place after him, beginning a rivalry between them.

Getting Shot and Tremor[]

When he was at Mercy West fighting for a heart for Denny, he rushed to the hospital to help Denny right away. Then he got shot in the shoulder before entering the hospital. The wound caused damage to the nerves in his arm and caused him to develop a tremor. He took a long time recovering, but he eventually regained use of his arm and hand and he was able to operate again.

Planning the Wedding[]

Preston was in the mood for a traditional, spirited wedding, which rose conflict with Cristina. In the end, they agreed to have a spirited wedding, but only a small one. The news of the wedding was supposed to be secret, but Mark overheard Preston telling Derek, and soon everyone knew.

Departure from the Hospital[]

After the wedding, Burke was nowhere to be found. When Cristina asked Derek about him, he told her Burke had handed in a letter of resignation two weeks ago.

Winning the Harper Avery[]

Preston Burke was one of the 2008 and 2009 applicants for the Harper Avery Award. He was against many applicants, such as Erica Hahn. He won following his departure from Seattle Grace.

Institute for Medical Research[]

Following his Harper Avery win, Preston Burke sought out his next challenge. Connecting with a billionaire investor, Preston founded the Klausman Institute for Medical Research in Zurich, Switzerland with a focus on cardiac research. As its chief medical officer, Preston managed and worked in the institute for some time until he gave it to Cristina in order for him to move to Milan, Italy at the request of his wife.[2]


He is a brilliant surgeon, however, he is sometimes overbearing, especially when it came to his relationship with Cristina. He is extremely neat and organized, particularly when it comes to his apartment, which is spotless. He is an excellent cook and plays the trumpet.



Cristina Yang[]

At the mixer before the interns' first day, Cristina approached Burke but he ignored her and was too interested in his date.

He began a relationship with intern Cristina Yang but broke it off because he feared it would ruin both of their reputations. However, her miscarriage brought them back together. They lived together in his perfectly-kept apartment. However, after being shot he started to have tremors and they were forced to keep them secret putting a strain on their relationship. After a long time of keeping his tremors a secret, Cristina went to the Chief and confessed everything. Initially, he was engaged in a cold war with Cristina, where neither of them spoke but after she broke the silence, he proposed to her and she accepted.

However, on the day of their wedding, Burke told Cristina that he no longer wished to make her do anything against her will, and Burke realized he was trying to make Cristina the woman he wanted her to be rather than accepting her as the woman she is. Cristina said she "thought this was what she wanted." He wanted her to say she knew it was what she wanted, so he left her in the chapel. Cristina then returned to their apartment and discovered Burke had left, taking with him the things that meant something to only him (his trumpet, his Eugene Foote collection, his grandmother's picture, and his lucky scrub cap), leaving Cristina devastated. He told Derek to inform her he quit and sent his mother to collect his things.

Years later, despite having moved on and created a family, Burke evidently still had feelings for Cristina, knowing full-well if he were to work with Cristina again, he would inevitably fall for her again to the point of cheating on his wife with Cristina and ultimately "destroy [his] marriage and [his] life".

Edra Burke[]

Burke is currently married to Edra Burke, with whom he has two children: Simone and Vivianna. Edra has sacrificed her career for their family so Burke could run the Klausman Institute for Medical Research, but in 2014, Burke gave his job to Cristina so he and Edra could move to Milan in order to be closer to her parents.


George O'Malley[]

Although Burke initially disliked George, he began to like him and later, George became his guy. George even moved in with him for a while but was kicked out when Cristina walked around naked. Burke was friendly towards Derek for a while but he wasn't friends with him. He even befriended Addison first. After a bomb scare at the hospital they became good friends. He even chose Derek to be his best man. He was good friends with Richard Webber as well.


Dr. Preston Burke used to be the head cardiothoracic surgeon at Seattle Grace Hospital on a salary of $2 million. After completing pre-medical studies at Tulane University, Burke graduated first in his class from Johns Hopkins Medical School. He completed his cardiothoracic surgical fellowship at Seattle Grace Hospital.

He was once the interim chief of surgery while Dr. Webber was healing from brain surgery.

He was once shot, affecting his control of his right hand. His temporary fix to this possibly long-term problem was to work together with Cristina during every one of his surgeries so that she could take over in case he might have trouble with his hand. The arrangement fell apart after Cristina, reacting to growing stress after George caught onto their secret, went to the Chief and confessed everything. The chief was quite angry at Burke telling him that many patients are at risk and it is a major problem that his hands are not able to function perfectly. The chief referred to Burke's hands as being worth 2 million dollars.

Until their secret was revealed, Burke was set to become the next Chief of Surgery, but now he has to compete with his fellow attendings for the position. He recovered full use of his hand after being operated on by Dr. Derek Shepherd.

Burke wins a Harper Avery.

After he left Cristina at the altar, Preston's long-time rival, Dr. Erica Hahn, replaced him as the head of cardiothoracic surgery. She has some respect for Burke, but was infuriated when he won a medical award instead of her.

Following his Harper Avery win, Preston, with the help of a billionaire investor, founded the Klausman Institute for Medical Research in Zurich, Switzerland with a focus on cardiac research. As its chief medical officer, Preston managed and worked in the institute for some time until he gave it to Cristina in order for him to move to Milan, Italy at the request of his wife.[3]

Notes and Trivia[]

  • Cristina rarely called Burke by his first name, Preston.
  • He learned to cook because his mother owned a restaurant in Alabama.
  • He plays the trumpet and enjoys jazz music, especially Eugene Foote's. He performed surgery to remove the pacemaker on his musical hero at Foote's request, but against Burke's better judgment. Unfortunately, Foote died during surgery.[4]
  • Burke was the only cardiothoracic transplant specialist at Seattle Grace[5], a role presumably taken over by Dr. Hahn upon on his departure.
  • When casting for Burke, he was described as a nebbishy, stout forty-something man.
  • In the alternate reality episode If/Then, Preston Burke is one of the missing characters, though it is explained that he had a romantic relationship with Cristina Yang and abruptly left the hospital shortly after.
  • Burke believes his scrub caps are lucky and he feels nervous about surgery without them.
  • During season one, despite being a cardiothoracic surgeon, Burke oversaw, and ultimately performed, an appendectomy. Additionally, he was planned to perform a Whipple. Both procedures are typically performed by a general surgeon, however Burke is likely to have been certified in general surgery before completing his cardiothoracic fellowship.
  • In 2000, Preston Burke was a cardiothoracic surgical fellow at Seattle Grace Hospital.[6]
  • In the season seven episode Shock to the System, a former patient of Burke is hospitalized. Teddy Altman is rather critical of Burke's approach to her treatment, calling it 'conservative' and proposes a radically new procedure. It should be noted though that years had passed since Burke last treated the patient, so Teddy's approach may have been unknown to Burke back then.
  • He is said to make great paella, a rice dish.[7]
  • He loves to watch the rain.[8]
  • He had the lowest mortality rate while at Seattle Grace Hospital.[9]
  • Burke does not eat red meat.[10]
  • Burke is a Gemini.[11]


A more complete gallery with pictures of Preston Burke can be found here.

Notable Episodes[]

These episodes are Burke-centric or otherwise very informative about his life.

Memorable Quotes[]

Preston: Cristina, I could promise to hold you and to cherish you. I could promise to be there in sickness and in health. I could say till death do us part, but I won't. Those vows are for optimistic couples, ones full of hope. And I do not stand here on my wedding day optimistic or full of hope. I am not optimistic, I am not hopeful, I am sure, I am steady, and I know that I am a heart man. Taken apart, put back together, I hold them in my hands. I am a heart man. So this I am sure, you are my partner, my lover, my very best friend. My heart, my heart beats for you and on this day, the day of our wedding, I promise you this, I promise you to lay my heart in the palm of your hands. I promise you me.[12]

Preston (to Cristina): I am Preston Burke. A widely renowned cardiothoracic surgeon. I am a professional and more than that I am a good and kind person. I am a person that cleans up behind myself. I am a person that cooks well. And you, you are an unbelievable slob, a slovenly, angry intern. I am Preston Burke and you, you are the most competitive, most guarded, most stubborn, most challenging person I have ever met and I love you. What the hell is the matter with you that you won't just let me?[13]

Preston (to Cristina): The way I loved you, was consuming.[14]