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Mary Lee draws on her roots with gift to support medical education

by Mark Sullivan

Working at her Chinese immigrant parents' Somerville laundry, Mary (Chin) Lee, J75, M83, learned the meaning of a job well done, and the importance of giving something back.

"My parents always said, 'We're doing this to give you a better life. Don't waste it. Give back,' " says Lee, former dean of educational affairs at Tufts Medical School, and current associate provost. "Those values are very much in line with the Hippocratic Oath." Her parents' sense of vocation mirrors that of Tufts' clinical faculty, who, in keeping with the Hippocratic Oath to share knowledge, teach medical students on a volunteer basis.

To thank those clinical faculty members, Lee has donated $100,000 to support clinical education at the medical school.

"I hope the fund can provide seed money for innovative programs run by our core clinical faculty," Lee said. "This can help support them in their professional growth as outstanding educators."

Lee hopes the fund will "grow into the millions." She added, with a smile: "The fund is unnamed-maybe someone will name it for a few million. Philanthropy at any level has an impact. Next year is my 25th reunion; perhaps my classmates will consider a contribution."

A legendary dean

"Tufts is blessed with a core of dedicated and passionate clinical teaching faculty," said Scott Epstein, M84, the school's current dean of educational affairs. "Their effectiveness is apparent in Tufts students' success in gaining the most sought-after residency placements, and their superior performance during those residencies. Yet, as with clinical faculty nationwide, Tufts educators face mounting outside pressure to see more and more patients. This has squeezed the time they can devote to teaching.

"Mary's generous gift sets the stage for the school to recognize and reward clinical teaching faculty," Epstein said.

Lee's gift is her latest contribution to medical education at Tufts. For nearly two decades, she taught students and residents in the general internal medicine practice at Tufts-New England Medical Center, and for a dozen years, was dean for educational affairs. She was academic leader of the team that developed TUSK-the Tufts University Sciences Knowledgebase-which shares intellectual resources across Tufts' health sciences schools, and with medical institutions in the US, Africa, and India. Lately, she is engaged with the OpenCourseWare project, which gives students and faculty across the globe access to educational content and tools developed at Tufts.

"Mary Lee has been a legendary dean for educational affairs at the medical school," Dean Michael Rosenblatt has said. "Few educators, no matter how talented, are known beyond their institution. Mary is recognized internationally for her achievements."