Dr. Martin Brotman, 81, is being remembered by family, friends and coworkers across North America for his work in the medical community, and his faith and compassion that enriched the lives of so many.
A longtime Tiburon resident, he passed away “suddenly, yet peacefully,” on December 20, according to his family.
According to a family statement, “Dr. Brotman was one of the most important medical leaders in the Bay Area, revered for his medical skills, hospital and community leadership, and ability to diagnose and solve both medical and business problems. He was loved by his patients and San Francisco’s political, community and nonprofit leaders.”
Brotman was born on June 26,1939, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, to Jewish immigrants Helen and Israel Brotman. His parents instilled in him a strong work ethic and encouraged him to pursue a career in medicine. Israel Brotman, who worked as a janitor after arriving in Canada from Russia, eventually built a business manufacturing heavy outerwear and work clothes. Despite the success of his Canadian Garment Manufacturing Company (which still operates), Israel did not want his son going into the family business.
Martin Brotman eventually received medical degrees from the University of Manitoba, where he graduated top of his class. He went on to receive postgraduate training in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
“Martin’s passing is a tremendous loss for me, my family and the many people I’ve seen him impact, inspire and care for during the seven decades we were blessed to be friends,” said Dr. Ernest Rady, who grew up with Brotman in Winnipeg and went to school with him at the University of Manitoba. “He was a great human being, the best friend anyone could hope to have in this life. … I will miss him profoundly.”
While growing up in Winnipeg, Brotman met the love of his life. At just 14 years old, he met childhood sweetheart Farron Stern, whom he married on Aug. 14, 1960, while he was a second-year medical student. During their honeymoon trip to San Francisco they were enchanted by the beauty of the Bay Area. With eldest daughter Ilana and son Stuart, they moved to the Bay Area in 1967, as Dr. Brotman established his medical practice and accepted a visiting professorship at UC San Francisco. A year later, they welcomed daughter Brenley. The family lived in Tiburon and San Francisco at various times.
Helen Brotman, a woman of profound faith, instilled in her son a dedication to family, friends and respect for his own cultural and religious heritage. The lessons she taught him followed Brotman for the rest of his life.
A longtime member of Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael, Brotman served as president and, at the time of his passing, he was co-chair of the synagogue’s $26 million capital campaign to rebuild and modernize its facility.
He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Farron, and Ilana and Neal Tandowski and Brenley and Kevin Morris. He was preceded in death by son Stuart Brotman, husband of Elizabeth. He had six grandchildren, Blake, Olivia and Meredith Tandowsky, Abigail Brotman, and Ashley and Joshua Morris.
Family and friends came first for Brotman, who is described as a “man of ethics, morality, honesty and integrity.” Brotman found joy in boating, skiing and flying.
According to family, “his greatest joy and achievements was the time he spent with his family and six grandkids. He planned and executed every detail of family trips every summer and holiday break: 14 plane tickets, ‘table for 14’ reservations, [trips to] Spain, Italy, London, Hawaii, Mexico, San Diego, etc. He dreamt of having about his entire childhood and fulfilled his dream by naming his first boat BOMAJA (the first letter of each grandchild’s name).”
In 1986, Dr. Brotman led the establishment of the Pan Med Medical Office Building on Webster Street in San Francisco, which attracted an elite medical staff. While maintaining his full medical practice, Dr. Brotman also acted as Chief of Gastroenterology and Chairman of the Department of Medicine at Pacific Presbyterian Hospital (later known as California Pacific Medical Center).
He is credited with rescuing CPMC in the mid-1990s as the struggling hospital was on the verge of bankruptcy. He was appointed President and CEO of CPMC in 1995 and, within a few years, Dr. Brotman’s “strong management and leadership skills revitalized the institution,” according to a release.
Through tough decisions and cost-cutting measures, CPMC reversed a $32 million deficit into an $11 million surplus under Brotman’s leadership. Sacramento-based Sutter Health acquired CPMC in 1996, and Dr. Brotman began plans for a new, seismically-sound hospital campus downtown.
In 2009, Dr. Brotman became the first CEO of Sutter’s West Bay Region (then comprising eight hospitals and two multispecialty medical groups) and in 2012, Sutter Health’s first Senior Vice President for Education, Research & Philanthropy until his semi-retirement in 2015. He kept busy, however, guiding the completion of the new hospital campus.
Dr. Brotman was the driving force behind the creation of Sutter’s new 1,000,000 sq. ft. Van Ness campus hospital and adjacent medical building, both of which opened in 2019.
In 2002, Dr. Brotman was elected President of the American Gastroenterology Association and in 2008, awarded the distinguished Julius Friedenwald Medal, the highest honor bestowed upon an AGA member. In 2011, he was awarded the Humanitarian Award by the San Francisco NAACP.
Donations can be made in Dr. Brotman’s memory to:
Congregation Rodef Shalom – Capital Campaign, 170 N. San Pedro Rd, San Rafael, CA 94903; URJ Camp Newman – Stuart Brotman Fund, 711 Grand Ave., Suite 280, San Rafael, CA, 94901; or CPMC – Dr. Martin Brotman Medical Education Fund at CPMC Foundation, 2015 Steiner St., San Francisco, CA 94115.