J. Walden Retan

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J. Walden Retan (born 1930 in Syracuse, New York; ) is a retired physician, medical educator and social and environmental activist.

Retan attended Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire and Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. He completed his undergraduate studies in 1951 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War and completed officer candidate school in 1952. He was given an honorable discharge in 1953 and married the former Carol Maynard in 1955. He went on to earn his M.D. at the State University of New York College of Medicine at Syracuse in 1957. He interned and completed a residency and research fellowship in nephrology at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.

Retan was appointed an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School in 1959 and left in 1961 to become director of the Renal Division of the Department of Medicine at Detroit Receiving Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, He secured another teaching appointment at Wayne State University's College of Medicine. In 1964 he came to UAB Medical School as an assistant professor and began practicing renal medicine and pediatrics at University Hospital and Children's Hospital. He also volunteered his time at free clinics such as Community House and the Southside Free Clinic in the Studio Arts Building.

In 1966 Retan joined the staff of Baptist Medical Center Montclair and remained their until his retirement in 2009. He also served on the courtesy and consulting staff at St Vincent's Hospital and Brookwood Medical Center. In 2013 Retan came out of retirement to serve as a primary care physician at Cooper Green Mercy Health Services. In communicating to county leaders he stressed the need for more internists, "with time to unravel complicated problems or to deal with people who have high blood pressure and diabetes and arthritis and new, unexplained symptoms and a screwed up life and poverty."

Carol Retan died in 1998. Dr Retan married his second wife, Josephine, in 2001. The couple resides at Lake Logan Martin near Talladega.

J. Walden Retan has been active in the Birmingham Audubon Society and the Alabama Conservancy and testified before congress on the importance of the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act to protect wildlife in the Cahaba River. In 2007 Retan founded a Birmingham chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, called Health Care for Everyone, which promoted universal health insurance coverage. In 2013 he was a partner in the formation of the Nightingale Clinic to serve the city's homeless population.


  • Parks, Dave (April 9, 2007) "Group pushing for universal health care forms Birmingham chapter." The Birmingham News
  • Wright, Barnett (August 16, 2013) "Doctor comes out of retirement, describes what he found at Cooper Green Mercy." The Birmingham News

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