René Prêtre

René Prêtre
Rene Pretre 1 Jun 2012 Delemont.jpg
Born 1957
Citizenship Swiss
Alma mater University of Geneva
Medical career
Profession Surgeon
Institutions University Hospital of Zurich, University Hospital of Lausanne
Sub-specialties Children's heart surgery
Awards 2009 Swiss of the Year

René Prêtre (born 1957) is a Swiss pediatric heart surgeon at the University Hospital of Lausanne. He has performed thousands of surgeries on children's hearts.

Early life and education

Prêtre was born into a family of farmers in the countryside of Canton Jura, as one of seven siblings.[1][2] His father was a farmer and a Jurassian independence activist who was summoned five times before a judge.[2] Prêtre learned to work with his hands and to repair farm machinery.[3] His grandfather was a watchmaker.[3]

Prêtre initially wanted to become a farmer or a football player,[1] but applied for a position in medical school after a colleague from high school suggested it to him and told him the deadline for applying was approaching.[1][3] In 1988 he graduated from the University of Geneva in general surgery.[4] Between 1988 and 1990 he followed up on his studies at New York University, where he specialized in cardiovascular surgery.[4] He completed his formation in cardiovascular surgery at the University of Geneva in 1994, and became a lecturer at the university the same year.[4]

Professional career

As a student at New York University in the late 1980s, Prêtre was a surgeon at Bellevue Hospital in New York.[5] After his graduation in 1994,[4] he became a surgeon at the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.[6] In 1997 he joined the University Hospital in Zurich and by 2002 he was hired as Professor for pediatric cardiovascular surgery at the University of Zurich.[4] Since, he performed cardiovascular surgeries also at the Children's Hospital of Zurich [de].[4] In 2011, it was reported that he would leave the University Hospital of Zurich and be hired as the head of the cardiovascular division at the University Hospital of Lausanne in August 2012.[7] The same month he was appointed as a professor at the University of Lausanne.[4] As in 2015 the Romand University Centre for Cardiology and Children's Heart Surgery (CURCCCP) was created, he became its coordinator for children's heart surgery.[8] Through the CURCCCP, he was appointed as a professor at the University of Geneva in 2016.[9]


Before specializing in heart surgeries, Prêtre performed surgeries on victims of gunshots and stabbings at Bellevue Hospital in New York.[5] There, Prêtre and his team would listen to "She Drives Me Crazy" by the Fine Young Cannibals, which according to him had a good rhythm for surgical work.[5] Throughout his career Prêtre has performed surgeries on about 9,000 hearts[5][1] of which around 6,000 were children's hearts.[3][5] When operating, he wears glasses with a five-fold magnification to improve his eyesight.[3] Some of the surgeries can last up to fourteen hours, during which he drinks very little fluid in order to be able to stay in the operation room.[3] Through his NGO Le Petit Coeur[10] he annually travels for a few weeks to Mozambique and Cambodia to perform heart surgeries.[1]

Personal life

Prêtre is a fan of the French football club FC Sochaux[2] and played football in the Swiss regional league during his studies.[3] He currently avoids drinking more than one glass of wine.[5] Prêtre was married and has two daughters.[2]


2009 Swiss of the Year[11]

2020 Prix des Arts, des Lettres et des Sciences of the Canton of Jura[12]

The planet 162937 Prêtre is named after him.[13]


2016 Et au centre bat le coeur[14]


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