Associate Professor Joseph Lee

18 June 2021

Associate Professor Joseph (Joe) Lee is a CU Fellow who wears many hats. As well as subspeciality clinical work, he coordinates the CU SAQ Exams, being responsible for crafting, standard setting and marking of its annual SAQ exams.

Where did you grow up? 
I went to school in Singapore, then moved to Auckland, New Zealand to complete medical school. I obtained the Diploma in Post Graduate Obstetrics in Dunedin and entered the ITP program from Palmerston North.

Where do you work? 
After obtaining my MRANZCOG, I worked as an SR (senior registrar) in Bristol, Cheltenham and Chertsey in the UK. I gained experience in Urogynaecology and completed the RCOG Special Skills Module in Urodynamics. After completing my fellowship year in Laparoscopy/Urogynaecology in Sydney, I entered the CU (Urogynaecology) subspecialty program in Melbourne under tutorship of Professor P Dwyer and Associate Professor A Rosamillia and was appointed consultant following completion of my subspecialty training. I enjoyed working in tertiary institutions (Mercy and Monash), delving into Clinical research, subspecialty clinical work, as well as training future generations, providing mentorship. Prof B Haylen invited me back to Sydney few years ago and I now work at St Vincent’s Darlinghurst NSW. My professional journey has been long, perhaps convoluted, but has also brought many international connections and friends, not to mention exposure to varying clinical models on training, healthcare delivery and research.

Why did you choose medicine?
I was inspired by the miracles of science and wonders of medicine – but also recognised the importance of interpersonal relationships and communications. I liked these combinations.

Why O&G, in particular? 
I really enjoyed my O&G rotation when I was at medical school, and I wish to credit my old boss, Dr Jackie Smalldridge. I witnessed many wonderful childbirths and interactions in antenatal and gynaecological clinics, which inspired my fondness for 'Medicine' and 'Surgery'.

What field do you work in and what are you passionate about in your field and why?
Urogynaecology or Female Pelvic Floor. Inspirations from Don Wilson’s inaugural professorial lecture “the Hidden burden women’s Health 96” in 1996  caught my attention. I did notice pelvic floor issues has a relatively less emphasis within our curriculum had back then. It is perhaps a discipline within O&G that has a relatively “less mature” basic science, and yet, its manifestations affect a large cohort of women. It is also challenging due to the intimate nature of the issues women with pelvic floor problems have faced (e.g. urinary or fecal incontinence, prolapse, sex related issues).

What does a ‘normal day’ involve?
I wear a few hats at the moment – clinical work, research projects, updating clinical guidelines, contributing ideas to improve training opportunities for our Fellows and Registrars, coming up with a topic for the next Journal Club. My day also involves attending to domestic duties, such as school runs, planning dinner for family (yes I sometimes do that).

What have been your challenges and wins?
Through observing my mentors, I saw the importance of having consensus and learning. It could be a balance between compromise but yet also able to maintain an original position of advocacy, based on evidence and the commonality of achieving the best outcomes for our patients. My “baptism of fire” started with being involved in comparative clinical trials, sitting through many research meetings to agree on protocols. I’m grateful for the opportunities I was given whilst in Melbourne and the team contributed to several important clinical trials in urogynaecology. I enjoyed contributing as a member of Standardisation and Terminology Committee (International Urogynaecological Association) for ten years, five of which I was the Chair. Work on terminology draws together clinicians from different backgrounds, experiences, systems, cultures, and I truly enjoyed working with my international colleagues. This led to several terminology guidance documents, which arguably are foundation documents for our subspecialty.

One of the more exciting parts of being a consultant/subspecialist is growing or enhancing service delivery. I was fortunate enough to be part of teams that facilitated those exposures – such introducing 3D/4D Pelvic USS into routine diagnostics, facilitating availability of Sacro-neuromodulation for public patients, formulary application for new medications (to reduce costs to patients) and setting up satellite clinics akin to building Clinical Units.

What activities are you currently engaged with at the College?
I was co-opted into the Educational Subcommittee of UGSA (affiliated with the College) in its early days to help design and implement some of its educational activities, such as ASM content and workshops. I also contributed to some College statements related to Urogynaecology.

Several years back, I was invited to be a CU examiner and have helped craft, standard set, and mark CU Subspecialty exams. I am now the current CU SAQ Exam co-ordinator, responsible for coordinating the crafting, standard setting and marking of its annual SAQ exams, working with College staff as well as a team of CU Examiners. Through my membership of the CU Subspecialty Committee, I have also contributed to discussions and made suggestions regarding updating our curriculum, such as defining graduate outcomes or learning outcomes, and also Exams Review Groups to harmonise examination standards across the College, including Subspecialties. College activities are central to the functioning of its Fellowship. It is a fantastic platform to advance ongoing reforms, to continually improve our Curriculum, training programs, not to mention networking.

How do you wind down?
I iron clothes. My wife now lets me iron HER clothes. I started this when I helped out my parents in their Tailor shops. It’s strangely therapeutic, for me. I’m trying to exercise more. The forty-five-minute walk home from work is a good exercise where I throw in a phone call or two or take in the nice city views.

What do you do outside of work?
I cherish time spent with my growing children, engaging in their activities and planning family holidays. I’ve been dreaming of resuming hiking, skiing, running, as well as reading a good novel, preferably with a good vintage on hand. I’m so looking forward to travel again, exploring different cultures, language, histories and food.

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