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P&S Journal

P&S Journal: Fall 1997, Vol.17, No.3
Alumni News and Notes

Lee Family Fellowship Explores
Spiritual Dimension of Medicine

          By Peter Wortsman

K.J. Lee'65 To Keat Jin Lee'65, author of the most widely read textbook on otolaryngology, director of a busy New Haven-based group practice in ear, nose and throat, and facial plastic surgery, and CEO of a health care providers company, medicine is a way of life. Attuned to all aspects of practice, from the science and technology to the art of patient care to the socioeconomics of medical management, Dr. Lee is equally committed to the spiritual dimension of healing. To explore the importance of prayer in the healing process, the K.J. Lee Family Fellowship supports a lectureship and related research at P&S under the auspices of the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

The first Lee Lecture, on the "Epidemiology of Religion: Research on Religion, Spirituality, and Health," was delivered in January by Dr. Jeffrey S. Levin, associate professor of family and community medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School. The event was well-attended. The first recipients of a research grant are Dr. Maria Sullivan, senior resident in psychiatry, and Dr. Philip Muskin, associate professor of clinical psychiatry, who are studying the effect of religious beliefs on decisions to terminate life support.

Dr. Lee, who pioneered the use of laser surgery techniques and hearing device implants, among other technical innovations, believes that prayer can be an important adjunct to traditional procedures. He recalls one patient whose cancer, extending down into the skull base, could not be cured following surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, yet managed an astounding recovery. The patient was a devout believer. "This experience is of course anecdotal," Dr. Lee concedes, "yet I think there are just some things we cannot understand as scientists."

A native of Malaysia, Dr. Lee was inspired to pursue medicine after witnessing his father, who was near death from jaundice, survive, thanks to the care of missionary doctors in a local hospital. His younger sister, a family practitioner, runs a rest home for ailing missionaries in Kuala Lumpur.

Winning a scholarship to Harvard and subsequently to P&S, Dr. Lee became a U.S. citizen and served in the U.S. Army.

He trained in surgery at St. Luke's Hospital and pursued his ENT residency at Harvard-Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, teaching at Harvard and the University of Washington before joining the faculty at Yale School of Medicine, where he is associate clinical professor. He is chief of otolaryngology and former president of the medical staff and chairman of the medical board at the Hospital of St. Raphael in New Haven.

Author of 16 textbooks (most notably, "Essential Otolaryngology," soon to appear in its seventh edition) and producer of seven audiovisual productions, he designed a widely used air drill for mastoid, acoustic neuroma, and hypophysectomy surgery and helped develop a voice prosthesis for laryngectomized patients. He has lectured widely on issues related to health care management strategies.

A rigorous clinician and methodical thinker whose patients prize his attention to detail, Dr. Lee has never let worldly success blind him to the source of his strength: "I firmly believe that as medical professionals, we are instruments of a higher power of healing." Through the Lee Family Fellowship, he hopes to offer P&S students a spiritual vitamin to supplement their academic medical training.

copyright ©, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center

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