Preston grew up in Alabama, where his mother owns a restaurant. 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.
He is a brilliant surgeon, however he is sometimes over-bearing, especially when it comes to his relationship with Cristina. He is extremely neat when it comes to his apartment, which is spotless. He is an excellent cook.
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, in the finale of season three, on the day of their wedding, Burke tells Cristina that he no longer wishes to make her do anything against her will, and Burke realized he was trying to make Cristina the woman he wanted her to be, and not accept 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 leaves her in the chapel. Cristina then returns to their apartment and discovers Burke has 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 told his mother to collect his things.
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 surgicalfellowship 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.
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 an medical awardinstead of her.
Cristina rarely calls Burke by his first name, Preston.
He plays the trumpet and enjoys jazz music, especially Eugene Foote's. He performs surgery to remove the pacemaker on his musical hero at Foote's request, but against Burke's better judgement. Unfortunately, Foote died during surgery. (GA: Blues for Sister Someone).
Burke was the only cardiothoracic transplant specialist at Seattle Grace (GA: 17 Seconds), 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 alluded that Cristina Yang "screwed everyone out of that opportunity." No other explanation for his disappearance is given.
Burke believes his scrub caps are lucky and he feels nervous about surgery without them.
During season one, despite being a cardiothorasic 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 cardiothrasic fellowship.
In 2000, Preston Burke was a cardiothoracic surgical fellow at Seattle Grace Hospital.
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.
A Hard Day's Night · The First Cut Is the Deepest · Winning a Battle, Losing the War · No Man's Land · Shake Your Groove Thing · If Tomorrow Never Comes · The Self-Destruct Button · Save Me · Who's Zoomin' Who?
Grey's Anatomy, Season 2
Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head · Enough is Enough · Make Me Lose Control · Deny, Deny, Deny · Bring the Pain · Into You Like a Train · Something to Talk About· Let It Be · Thanks for the Memories · Much too Much · Owner of a Lonely Heart · Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer · Begin the Begin · Tell Me Sweet Little Lies ·Break on Through · It's the End of the World · As We Know It · Yesterday · What Have I Done to Deserve This? · Band-Aid Covers the Bullet Hole · Superstition · The Name of the Game · Blues for Sister Someone · Damage Case · 17 Seconds · Deterioration of the Fight or Flight Response · Losing My Religion
Grey's Anatomy, Season 3
Time Has Come Today · I Am a Tree · Sometimes a Fantasy · What I Am · Oh, the Guilt · Let the Angels Commit · Where the Boys Are · Staring at the Sun · From a Whisper to a Scream · Don't Stand So Close to Me · Six Days, Part 1 · Six Days, Part 2 · Great Expectations · Wishin' and Hopin' · Walk on Water · Drowning on Dry Land · Some Kind of Miracle · Scars and Souvenirs · My Favorite Mistake · Time After Time · Desire · The Other Side of This Life, Part 1 · The Other Side of This Life, Part 2 · Testing 1-2-3 · Didn't We Almost Have It All?