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2014 Distinguished Alumni Award

David P. O'Brien III, MD

Dr. David O’Brien received the 2014 Emory Urology Distinguished Alumni Award. Dr. O’Brien graciously accepted the award in a ceremony at the 2014 Advances in Urology Emory Conference. The award recognizes alumni of Emory School of Medicine, past Emory Urology graduates and/or Emory faculty members for their outstanding contributions toward advancing the field of Urology.

O’Brien grew up in Louisville, Kentucky where he attended Atherton High School, graduating as President of his Senior Class in 1958. In high school, he managed the basketball team, played on the football and baseball team, serving as captain.  He attended Princeton University graduating with an AB degree in Biology in 1962. He received his medical degree University of Kentucky School of Medicine in Lexington receiving an M.D. degree in 1966 followed by two years of surgical residency.

O’Brien served in US armed forced and was deployed to Vietnam 1969-1969. While on active military duty with the U. S. Navy, he treated US Marines both in a Marine Infantry Battalion and the First Marine Division Field Hospital in South Vietnam. He spent the subsequent year at the US Navy Hospital, Marine Corps Base at Camp Pendleton California.  While in Vietnam, Dr. O’Brien received a letter from Dr. Kenneth Walton, the new appointed Chairman of the Urology Service at Emory at that time, offering him a residency position. O’Brien immediately accepted the offer and joined Emory Urology for residency training (1970-1973) and subsequently stayed on as a urology faculty.

O’Brien recalls the joy and honor of working with Urologic icons such as Ken Walton, Sam Ambrose, John Woodard and later Bill Cooner (the Patriarch of ultrasonography of the prostate). He started that “It was the experience of a lifetime embellished by the satisfaction of participating in the education and surgical training of residents.” He continues “There was always a challenge and always a joy as happens as the training shifted from teacher to pupil to pupil to teacher.”  Asked often by residents about his standard composure in the operating room even under the most difficult circumstances, O’Brien always replied, “if you’ve ever operated in a flak jacket and a helmet with rockets and mortars exploding around you, the rest seems pretty easy”.

During the early years of renal transplantation at Emory, O’Brien took leadership role in cadaver organ retrieval, living donor nephrectomy and renal transplantation. The total number of renal transplants increased from 45 a year to 154 in the first year of the program.  These were all done by O’Brien (and Whelchel) and included multiple organ procurements. O’Brien retired from Emory in 1999.

During his career Dr O’Brien has had the great fortune to be supported by his wife Sue (Dr. Susan Kensella), five children, David IV, Kirk, Megan, Steven and Cristin, and five grandchildren who continually provide lifetime joy. 

        Dr. Anton Buschen, Dr. Susan Kinsella, Dr. David O'Brien & Dr. Marin Sanda