In 2009, Yeu-Tsu Margaret Lee, MD, FACS, was a passenger on a flight from Hawaii to Honduras with an overnight layover in Miami, FL. Despite the uncomfortable sleeping accommodations available in the plane and airport lounge, Dr. Lee was ready to begin her medical mission duties upon landing in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Undeterred by numerous obstacles, including the occasional electricity outage, Dr. Lee performed more than a dozen hernia repair operations in a region where access to surgical care is limited.
Her colleague Teresa Searcy, a medical missionary with SMART (Surgical Medical Assistance Relief Teams), a not-for-profit organization that provides health care services to children in low-income countries, attested to Dr. Lee’s ability to finish the work at hand in spite of challenges. “Dr. Lee is efficient and meticulous—a teacher with over 50 years of surgical experience,” Ms. Searcy wrote in a blog post. “In the less-than-perfect conditions, she thrives. She has a philosophy that everything will work out, and it does.”1
The American College of Surgeons (ACS) Foundation proudly highlights Dr. Lee as a Mayne Heritage Society (MHS) member. The MHS recognizes Fellows who have provided a bequest or other “planned” gift of any size to the College through their estate plan.
Thriving in less-than-ideal environments has been a trademark of Dr. Lee from childhood. Born in war-torn Xian, China, in 1936, Dr. Lee understands what it means to grow up without many of the basic necessities of life, particularly access to medical services. The youngest of three daughters, she survived wartime illness as a child; her sisters did not. Dr. Lee then knew what she wanted to do with her life: become a physician and provide care to the sick.2
Immigrating to the U.S. and then graduating from Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, in 1961, Dr. Lee has been a dedicated general and oncologic surgeon as well as a professor of surgery for more than 50 years. Most recently, she was a clinical professor of surgery at the University of Hawaii, John A. Burns School of Medicine, Honolulu. Several times a year, she also is a visiting professor of surgery at Tzu-Chi Buddhist University in Taiwan. Her semi-retirement allows her to participate in several medical missions each year. “It feels very good to give these patients a better quality of life,” Dr. Lee said in a 2014 interview with representatives of the journalism department at the University of Hawaii, Manoa.2
As a Colonel in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, Dr. Lee also served her adopted homeland. She was an active duty surgeon assigned to an evacuation hospital during Operation Desert Storm. In a 400-bed hospital in northern Saudi Arabia, she served on a team of surgeons that performed 125 operations. One of Dr. Lee’s patients was a high-ranking officer of the Iraqi Republican Guard, illustrating her commitment to care for any patient in need of surgical services.3
Beyond offering her volunteer services, Dr. Lee has given back to the medical community in other notable ways. She’s been a generous donor through planned gifts to several educational institutions and medical associations, including her alma mater, Harvard Medical School, and the ACS Foundation. She gives back because of the support she received and because she wants to help future generations of students. “The education and training I received in the U.S. have enabled me to have a career and to serve humanity,” Dr. Lee said.4
Explaining why she donated to the ACS, Dr. Lee said, “The motto on the seal of the ACS is ‘to serve all with skill and fidelity.’ In order to preserve and promote highest standards and quality of surgical care, all Fellows of the American College of Surgeons should support and donate to the ACS Foundation.” (Personal communication with author via e-mail, May 16, 2013).
As a donor to the ACS Foundation since 1994, Dr. Lee also is a member of the Fellows Leadership Society and has made major gifts to ACS Cancer Programs and the scholarship fund to help international surgeons attend Clinical Congress.
The ACS Foundation recognizes Dr. Lee’s commitment to her profession and patients, as illustrated in her gifts of time, talent, and financial contributions. Through her support as a MHS member, Dr. Lee will continue a legacy of service in support of the ACS Operation Giving Back program and of the provision of lifelong learning opportunities.
If you are interested in learning about how you can join Dr. Lee in making a planned gift to the College, contact Shane Hollett, Executive Director, ACS Foundation, at 312-202-5506.
- Searcy T. 13 people receive much needed hernia surgery. Blog post. March 13, 2009. Available at: http://teresasearcy.blogspot.com/2009/03/13-people-receive-much-needed-hernia.html. Accessed March 11, 2016.
- Bergonio B. Ka Hui Ho’olauna Show 13. May 24, 2014. Available at: https://bbergonio.wordpress.com/2014/05/24/margaret-yeu-tsu-lee-story-ka-hui-hoolauna-show-13/. Accessed March 11, 2016.
- Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation, Inc. Available at: www.womensmemorial.org/Education/APA.html. Accessed March 11, 2016.
- Yeu-Tsu Margaret Lee, MD ’61 returns help she was given. Harvard Medical School. Available at: http://hms.harvard.edu/yeu-tsu-margaret-lee-md-61. Accessed on March 11, 2016.