Person 2 Person | Stories - Person 2 Person: Dr. Vivian Lee
Tuesday, July 2 2013, 02:57 PM MDT
Person 2 Person: Dr. Vivian Lee
Dr. Vivian Lee is a Rhodes Scholar, has a doctorate from Oxford, a medical degree from Harvard and an MBA from New York University.  

For the past 2 years, Lee has served as CEO for the University of Utah's Health Care Network and as Dean of the U's School of Medicine.  She is arguably blazing a trail for women in medicine all over the world.  But her work here in Utah has been remarkable for doctors, students and patients.   She quickly recognized a need for more medical professionals in Utah.  So Lee has worked with the Utah Legislature to expand the University's School of Medicine.   The school will see a 50% jump in attendance in the coming years from 82 students to 122 students enrolled in the program.

Lee oversees more than 1,500 doctors and professors among the four hospitals, four colleges and one school of medicine at the University of Utah.   In 2011, the hospitals saw more than 1 million patients and close to 40,000 patients in their emergency rooms. Lee manages a $2.3 billion budget and sees great things on the horizon for Utah's healthcare system.

Shauna Lake caught up with a very busy Dr. Lee to get some insight into her professionally and personally. Along with our partner, Zion's Bank, we are happy to present our first "Person 2 Person”.

Below is a transcript of Shauna's interview with Dr. Lee along with a blog post of a typical day for her.

  "We are so excited to get to know you a little bit more and namely what you have done here at the university.  It's been 2 years in July, since you've been here.  Tell me some of the highlights of that time and what you've accomplished thus far."

: "I have had such a great time here.  I can't believe it's already been almost 2 years since we've landed.    I'm very fortunate in taking on this role from my predecessor who built an amazing organization.  And so it's been a real pleasure for me to get to know the people here. And to start to work towards some new initiatives and recognizing that we are already an outstanding delivery system.  We have great researchers, great educators. I'd say in the last couple of years, the projects that I am most pleased with are our progress on, I have to start with our school of medicine expansion.  Our class expansion thanks to the support of our legislature this year.  We are getting new funding in and so this fall we've actually been able to admit 20 more medical students in. So we went from 82 to 102 and then in a couple of years we will go to 122.  So it's a 50% increase in our medical size."

"And you did that because we just don't have enough primary care physicians in Utah. Isn't that correct for our population?"

"Right.  We are about the 4th or 5th from the bottom in the country in terms of the number of primary care physicians per capita and we are one of the fastest growing states in the country as you know and so that gap is just going to widen and we need to get those students in because it takes them a while to get out and be really practicing physicians."

"And why was that? Were people just getting educated here and go elsewhere to practice?  What did you find?"

  "Well because our class size was so small many of our students had to go out of state to pursue medical school. And they've had to pay out of state tuition in either public or private schools (with) high tuition. And so when they come back, because many of them want to come back to their homes and so they are saddled with high debts and that is not good. Because when you have high debt you are not as motivated to do primary care, or if you are in primary care, you have to deal with your debt.  And so this way, these students get to stay in state, be close to their families, and not go into too much debt go into primary care. And take care all of us as we need their care as we get older."

: "The University of Utah is kind of great little secret, isn't it.  I read in an article, that it is the kind of marriage of the ivory tower of medicine associated with the hospital and that is fairly unusual?"

"The University of Utah, I think, is one of the best kept secrets in the country.  And many people will say that the hospital delivery system is one of the tops in the country.  We are consistently ranked in the top 10.  In 2010, we were #1 in the country in terms of the quality of care we deliver. And then exactly as you say, we are one of just a handful of academic medical centers in the country where the delivery system the hospital and the academics report through one office, our office.   I think that's really powerful because we know we need to transform medical care. The healthcare system is broken and we have great minds on the academic side who have been studying the healthcare delivery system, how to incentivize behavior change, how to keep people healthy. We have a terrific health promotion, exercise and sports science, nutrition departments. We have all these experts and through an integrated academic medical center, we are able to apply our great minds into the delivery system, so that our patients can get the best possible care. And for them as academicians it's interesting because the hospital is a chance for them to implement their ideas and to see them come to fruition, so it's a real win-win. It's a really a terrific environment to be in."

"Would you like to see that created in other places and be part of the process, you personally?"

DR. VIVIAN LEE:  "Well I think that most academic medical centers, unfortunately, their governance and structure isn't set up this way, unfortunately and they are hard to change.  But I hope that by sharing the work of our success that other institutions would consider modifying their system so they can be as successful as we're going to be."

SHAUNA LAKE: "It's been said that you are kind of a rock star in your industry right now."

"Oh please… (Laughter)"

SHAUNA LAKE: "You are on a rocket ship shooting to the very top of your industry."

DR. VIVIAN LEE:  "That's ridiculous."

SHAUNA LAKE: "What do you think of women in leadership roles in academic medicine and in medicine just in general?"

DR. VIVIAN LEE:  "Well you know there was a paper that was published in academic medicine last year. That was a little bit shocking.  It said that about 10-12% of the leaders in academic medicine or the CEOs of hospitals are women.  That is shocking to me because on the flip side, if you look at the healthcare dollar, women make about 75% of the decisions of the healthcare dollar.  The vast majority of decisions about healthcare are made by women. So there is a miss-match in healthcare between the people who are making the decisions and the consumers or the customers. And I think that women need to be at the table.  Maybe they don't all need to be not all leaders don't have to be women but they certainly need to be well- represented at the decision making table. And especially these days, you know the challenge of healthcare is that we need to be collaborative.  We really need to work together and I think that often the leadership style of women tends to be more inclusive, tends to be collaborative, consultative.  So I think that will serve many of us well in leading healthcare."

SHAUNA LAKE:  "I know you grew up in Norman, Oklahoma.  You've been educated at Harvard, a Rhodes Scholar, working at NYU in New York before you came here. How does Utah compare?  I mean what is it like for you to make that transition, do you like living here?  Do you like the atmosphere and has the state been welcoming to you and your family?"

  "So our family loves living here. I love living here too.  I grew up in Norman, Oklahoma so the culture here is pretty close to what I grew up with, pretty down to earth, pretty humble, very friendly.  So while I enjoyed my time on the east coast and in England, I think that we've just been so surprised at how wonderful it is to be here not only in the workplace because the environment here is very positive, it's very supportive, but also outside of the work.  I think what is so remarkable about Utah is that we have the best work-life balance of any place I've ever seen.  And I think that's what makes us so productive. And it makes it a wonderful place to be."

SHAUNA LAKE: "Which leads me to my next question, you are so accomplished, and you also are raising, not just children but 4 children, and that is a major job.  So how do you do both?"

DR. VIVIAN LEE:  "Well, I have a great husband, that's key.  We have great kids.  You know there are some things I guess that through my life… I don't know this is a hard question to answer really.  People ask me about this, and they use the word ‘work-life balance' and actually I would say for me it's not about balance, it's about juggling.  There's this great cartoon that I saw once that I'm still looking for.  And it's this hen in a farmyard, and she's in a circle of these other hens who are all watching here and she is juggling these eggs.  And one of the other hens says ‘I love how she juggles work and family.'  And I love that.  That's kind of how I feel, I'm juggling, its' kind of precarious.

"As long as nothing drops."

"As long as nothing drops everything is fine. Exactly!"

  "Tell me a little bit about growing up in Oklahoma. Was there any experience in your youth in your young adulthood that made you want to take this path?"

DR. VIVIAN LEE:  "2 of my best friends in Norman were members of the LDS church, big families; I grew up with all the siblings, and played with them.  And so, when I moved here, I've been so pleased at the opportunity to reunite with them.  Not surprising that many family members have re-located to Salt Lake City.  And so they come and visit and I get to see them.  And so it's been for me a very comfortable transition in the that regard and I think that's all relevant to the decision to come here."

"Do you see yourself being here in the long term?

  "Oh we would love to be here as long as we possibly can."

SHAUNA LAKE:  "It has been so nice to meet you Person to Person. Thank you for your time."

DR. VIVIAN LEE: "Thank you. Thank you very much."

Read a "Day in the Life" blog post from Dr. Vivian Lee.

(Copyright 2013 Sinclair Broadcasting Group.)Person 2 Person: Dr. Vivian Lee

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