Dr. Allison Lee named Department of Anesthesiology’s Officer of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

February 24, 2021

Dr. Allison Lee has agreed to serve as Officer of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) for the Department of Anesthesiology. Dr. Lee is co-leader, with Dr. Maya Hastie, of the department’s new DEI Task Force.

Chair Dr. Ansgar Brambrink announced the news today in an email to the department. In her role as Officer of DEI, Dr. Lee will guide the work of the task force, and she will act as liaison between the department’s members and its leadership, and between the department and the larger organization and national specialty societies. She also will consult on educational activities to advance DEI within the department.

Dr. Lee has a strong record of involvement in community leadership and inclusion initiatives. She is the founder of Medics on a Mission, an organization that provides urology services for patients in Jamaica, West Indies, where she was born and raised.

Every year since 2009, Dr. Lee gathers a surgical team of urologists, anesthesiologists, and others to join her in providing these services and to share their expertise with local clinicians at St. Ann’s Bay Hospital on Jamaica’s north shore. In 2013, she assembled a group of faculty specialists in regional anesthesia from the United States to join Medics on a Mission to conduct workshops for local anesthetists at St. Ann’s. The instructional workshops are now an annual mission event and a resounding success on several levels: The hospital has attracted more qualified surgical staff and an expanded patient population, and local anesthetists report having performed about 400 blocks in the past year alone. Also, trainees at the only anesthesia residency program in Jamaica, the University of the West Indies in Kingston, now request rotations at St. Ann’s to learn regional anesthesia from the local specialists who acquired their skills from the visiting faculty. 

Last year, CUIMC named Dr. Lee to its inaugural class of the Academy of Community and Public Service for her work in Jamaica, and for her local involvement in the United States with initiatives designed to shrink social inequalities in medicine by encouraging students from underserved backgrounds to prepare for healthcare careers. These initiatives include the MedPrep Health Careers Opportunity Program, an enrichment academy for minority and disadvantaged students interested in attending medical school. The program provides students with clinical and research experiences, mentoring, academic counselling, and MCAT preparation. 

With her departmental and institutional colleagues at Columbia, Dr. Lee recently was awarded two provost’s seed grants to address racial and equity issues: “Targeting Provider Bias to Advance Health Equity in Maternal Care,” and “Understanding and Responding to Racial Microaggressions in the Theater of the Oppressed.” She also was a member of the CUIMC Task Force for Addressing Structural Racism. In national committee work in DEI, Dr. Lee is the Diversity and Inclusion Officer at SOAP (the Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology) and the Chair of the SOAP Diversity and Inclusion Committee. She is also a member of the Association of University Anesthesiologists Leadership Advisory Board, which focuses on diversity and inclusion mentorship and fostering leadership in academic anesthesiology.

“Please join me in acknowledging Dr. Lee for her outstanding accomplishments as a leader and advocate for DEI,” writes Dr. Brambrink. “She is a change agent who will have a great impact on our commitment to create a more fair, diverse, and inclusive workplace and learning environment. I thank her for her leadership and trust that she will help us reach our goals.”