I first met Vivian Lee during a welcome event for students recently accepted to the University of Utah School of Medicine. This event was not held at the medical school or at the University of Utah Hospital. Instead, Dr. Lee chose to host all of the students (families included) at her home. I was nervous to meet Dr. Lee. After all, her strong advocacy for optimizing the quality and value of patient care, along with her initiatives for innovation and collaboration, were the reasons I was most excited to be a medical student in Utah. Dr. Lee immediately put my anxiety to rest, however. She was quick to take an interest in my family and to offer heartfelt words of encouragement with her calm and genuine, yet subtly confident personality.
As the dean of the medical school, personal gestures like this were the norm for Dr. Lee. The annual Halloween party she hosted at her house (costumes required) was a highlight of the school year, and the monthly lectures she would give were always structured around student input. I will deeply miss Dr. Lee. Her humility and generosity towards students will always be a model that I strive to emulate.
Dr. Vivian Lee has a special way of empowering medical students. At the end of my first year, a mentor asked me to give a speech for the education retreat on curriculum reform at the request of Dr. Lee, who wanted to include student perspectives. I agreed despite my anxiety at speaking in front of leaders in the medical community. When it was my turn, I locked my gaze with Dr. Lee, who gave me that familiar smile and a look that seemed to say, “I know you can do this.” That night, my peers and I who spoke received a personal thank you email from Dr. Lee, which included the lines, “You represented your classmates so well, and made it a ‘no-brainer’ that the educational redesign process must include student voices and input. Thanks for making us all feel proud.” Dr. Lee continued to encourage student participation in the curriculum reform process and treated us as equal stakeholders in the discussion.
In her role as dean, Dr. Lee continually promoted a partnership between students and administration built on regular communication and collaboration. I will not forget Dr. Lee’s leadership, innovation, and presence as a supportive and compassionate dean.
Catherine C. Lindsay
A good educator opens the minds of his or her pupils to new ideas and higher goals. Throughout her tenure as Dean of the School of Medicine, Vivian Lee challenged her students to expect more of ourselves and our futures. She led by example, working tirelessly and lifting the University of Utah to unprecedented heights. Her commitment to constant improvement was truly contagious.
Dr. Lee was always generous with her time. Despite a busy schedule, she consistently found opportunities to mentor medical students. Her monthly lectures on healthcare reform were a particular favorite of mine. By inviting student involvement in the discussions, patiently answering our questions and offering advice and encouragement, she did more than simply share her considerable expertise on the topic— she inspired us to believe in our own ability to affect lasting change.
This simple example illustrates one of Dr. Lee’s best qualities— her knack for getting the best out of her students. She constantly motivated those around her to be better. I am so grateful for her example of excellence, for the kindness she showed me and for her service to the University of Utah and especially her students. She will be sorely missed.
Editors Note: Robert McRae and Catherine C. Lindsay are not employed by the Daily Utah Chronicle. Alex Judd is a regular Opinion writer.