BUFFALO, N.Y. – Richard V. Lee, MD, University at Buffalo
professor of medicine and a physician in private practice, died on
May 7 at his home in Orchard Park. He was 75.
A memorial service will be held on June 24 at 3 pm on UB's North
Campus. More details will be available shortly.
“Dick Lee’s dedication as a physician and ambassador
for medical education has had a tremendous and lasting impact on
our community and on UB’s medical school,” said Michael
E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the UB
School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “He was first and
foremost a caring and dedicated physician, here in Western New York
and throughout the world. He was also an important member of
our delegation when we visited China to renew our affiliation
agreement with Capital University in Beijing. I will remember
him as someone who used his profession fully and with passion to
bring medical care to patients worldwide and to help ensure that
our medical students were exposed to a global
Lee’s professional life was as varied in disciplinary
terms as it was in its geography. A UB faculty member in the School
of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences since 1976, he was passionate
about international health and tropical medicine, interests that
took him and graduate students on annual medical expeditions to
provide care to populations in some of the most remote areas on the
In an interview published in 2000 in the Baylor University
Medical Center Proceedings, Lee said of his professional interests:
“I still like to think of myself as a diagnostician, an
old-fashioned notion that has gone out of style, I think, in
internal medicine. I find that to be fun.” He summed up his
perspective on medicine this way: “I think doctoring is
quintessential anthropology. We study humankind.”
“Dr. Lee was a wonderfully gifted physician and faculty
member,” says Stephen Dunnett, UB vice provost for
international education. “He had the bedside manner of an old
country doctor, personally interested and invested in the
well-being, in all senses of that term, of his patients and his
students. He extended that personal concern to everyone he met.
Everyone, friend and stranger, benefited from Dick’s open,
personable and helpful manner. He was unfailingly good humored and
always ready with hearty laugh of good cheer that put you at ease.
His gift for being with others was complemented by his superb
professional skills as a clinician and his far-ranging intellectual
and artistic interests which made him a highly regarded teacher and
author, not to mention an impassioned advocate for the arts in
Western New York. An exceptionally cultured yet modest man,
Dick wore his learning lightly, but he could discourse insightfully
on nearly any subject one could think of. He was a scholar
and a gentleman in the very best sense.”
Lee’s primary interests were in international health, the
complexities of managing medical complications of pregnancy and the
health status of geographically isolated human populations. He
maintained an active research program, studying the health of the
Rendille tribe of Northern Kenya; the Kayapo, Parakana and Apalai
tribes of Brazil, and the Ladakh people of Northwestern
"Dr. Lee was very proud of his Chinese heritage,” said
Anne B. Curtis, MD, Charles and Mary Bauer Professor of Medicine at
UB. “He was the leader of the international medicine program
for the medical school and through his efforts, generations of
students learned cultural sensitivity and traveled around the
world. He will be sorely missed by all of us."
His work abroad included medical treks with students and other
physicians to remote villages in Kashmir and Ladakh, India, in the
1980s and ’90s, and visits to the Amazon jungle, the Andes
and northern Kenya. In addition, he provided health services in
Thailand to refugees from Laos and Cambodia. He also consulted for
the World Health Organization's Collaborating Center for Health in
Housing, based in Buffalo.
His work with Tibetan refugees in India later led to an
acquaintance with the Dalai Lama, and Lee was part of the committee
that brought him to UB in 2006. Lee and his wife also established a
fund to support Tibetan students and Tibetan studies at UB.
Lee was renowned in the field of obstetric medicine, which
concentrates on treatment of disease, infection and complications
during pregnancy. In 2007, he received the C.G. Barnes Award from
the International Society of Obstetric Medicine in recognition of
his outstanding contributions to the field. The North American
Society of Obstetric Medicine also established a lecture in Lee's
name to be delivered at its annual meeting.
In addition to his primary appointment in the UB Department of
Medicine, Lee also was a professor in the departments of pediatrics
and gynecology-obstetrics in the School of Medicine and Biomedical
Sciences; in the Department of Social and Preventive medicine in
the School of Public Health and Health Professions and the
Department of Anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Through his posts at various institutions, Lee has had a major
impact on the Western New York community: he was a consultant to
the Buffalo Zoo, head of the Department of Medicine at Women and
Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, chief of medical service at
the Buffalo Veterans Administration Medical Center and medical
director of Ecology and Environment. He also was a consulting
physician for the Bronx Zoo.
He was a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in London and
the Explorers Club in New York and a trustee of the Yale-China
Association, Nichols School and Buffalo Academy of Medicine, of
which he also was president from 1985 to 1996. He served as
secretary of the board of trustees of the Yale-China Association
and maintained academic interchanges with medical schools in Hong
Kong, Changsha (Hunan Province) and Beijing.
Lee was born in Islip and attended St. Paul’s High School
in Concord, N.H., and Loretto’s School in Musselburgh,
Scotland. His paternal grandfather, Li Yan Phou, was one of the
first Chinese students to study in the United States, at Yale,
where Lee also received degrees in 1960 and 1964. While in college,
he was awarded the Ferris Prize in anatomy and the Winternitz
Pathology Prize, and maintained a lifelong interest in promoting
educational exchanges between the U.S. and China.
Lee held bachelor's and medical degrees from Yale University,
and did his residency and postdoctoral training at Yale-New Haven
Hospital. He worked for the Indian Health Service at the Fort Peck
Reservation in eastern Montana and was a professor of medicine at
Yale before coming to UB.
A member of the board of directors of the Shaw Festival in
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., Lee also was a member of the Great Lakes
Interurban Club, the New York Academy of Sciences and the American
Medical Association, and a fellow of the American College of
Physicians and the Royal Society of Medicine in London.
Dr. Lee is survived by his wife of 52 years, the former Susan
Bradley, and two sons, Benjamin and Matthew.