Dr. Philip R. Lee, who as a leading federal health official and fighter for social justice under President Lyndon B. Johnson wielded government Medicare money as a cudgel to desegregate the nation’s hospitals in the 1960s, died on Oct. 27 in a hospital in Manhattan. He was 96.
The cause was heart arrhythmia, his wife, Dr. Roz Lasker, said.
From his office at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, as the assistant secretary for health and scientific affairs from 1965 to 1969, Dr. Lee engineered the introduction of Medicare, which was established for older Americans in 1965, one year after Johnson had bulldozed his landmark civil-rights bill through Congress.
“To Phil, Medicare wasn’t just a ‘big law’ expanding coverage; it was a vehicle to address racial and economic injustice,” his nephew Peter Lee, the executive director of Covered California, which runs the state’s health care marketplace under the Affordable Care Act, was quoted as saying in a tribute by the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Lee was the university’s chancellor from 1969 to 1972, after leaving the Johnson administration.
Dr. Lee’s use of Medicare funding to desegregate hospitals “changed the economic lives of millions of seniors,” Mr. Lee added.
Provisions in the Medicare legislation subjected 7,000 hospitals nationwide to rules barring discrimination against patients on the basis of race, creed or national origin. The law required equal treatment across the board — from medical and nursing care to bed assignments and cafeteria and restroom privileges — and barred discrimination in hiring, training or promotion.
Before the law took effect in 1966, fewer than half the hospitals in the country met the desegregation standard and less than 25 percent did in the South.
“I remember during one of my visits,” Dr. Lee told the journal of the American Society on Aging in 2015, “a cardiologist at Georgia Baptist Hospital told me, ‘Well, you know, Dr. Lee, if I put a nigger in with one of my white patients, it would kill the patient. My patient would die of a heart attack.’”
By February 1967, a year or less after many of the law’s provisions had taken effect, 95 percent of hospitals were compliant, Dr. Lee said.
“He was largely responsible for that effort,” said Professor David Barton Smith of Drexel University and author of “The Power to Heal: Civil Rights, Medicare and the Struggle to Transform America’s Health System” (2016).
Dr. Lee hailed from a family of physicians — his father and four siblings were doctors — and while working in the Palo Alto Medical Clinic (now the Palo Alto Medical Foundation), which his father founded, he saw firsthand the effects on the poor and the elderly of inadequate health care and the lack of insurance coverage.
As early as 1961, he was a consultant on aging to the Santa Clara Department of Welfare in California, and as a member of the American Medical Association and a Republican at the time, he defied both the A.M.A. and his party
Dr. Lee is a former fellow at The Steadman Clinic and graduate of the Harvard Combined Orthopaedic Residency Program
ASPEN/VAIL, Oct. 30, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Jared Lee, M.D., has been named Medical Director of The Steadman Clinic’s soon-to-open clinic that will serve the Aspen and Roaring Fork Valley communities.
The appointment for Dr. Lee marks a return to The Steadman Clinic, where the Brigham Young University alumnus (and former football captain) served as a fellow from 2012-13. Since then, he moved on to join the practice at Bighorn Medical Center in Cody, Wyoming, and has served as a shoulder, knee, hip and sports medicine specialist there for over seven years. Prior to his fellowship at The Steadman Clinic, Dr. Lee completed his residency at the Harvard Combined Orthopaedic Residency Program, serving as Administrative Chief Resident at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“I am honored to join The Steadman Clinic and to work side by side with world-class surgeons in an organization that has consistently been regarded as the apex of orthopaedic care,” said Dr. Lee. “My desire is to contribute and build on the great name and reputation they have established.
“The time I had at The Steadman Clinic during my fellowship was extremely formative,” continued Dr. Lee. “My experience at Harvard was wonderful—I learned a great deal and have tremendous mentors from my time there. I was then very fortunate to be a fellow at The Steadman Clinic. They do everything right. They take great care of their patients. This model is something I have tried to replicate in Wyoming and it has helped me be extremely successful in building a cutting-edge practice at Bighorn Medical Center.”
Dr. Lee sees the new operation in Aspen as an extension of the work being done at The Steadman Clinic and Steadman Philippon Research Institute (SPRI) in Vail.
“We’re working to establish this clinic in Aspen with the same high quality of patient care that is consistent with the caliber of The Steadman Clinic in Vail,” said Dr. Lee. “We want our patients to benefit from the same feel, the same quality, the same responsiveness that patients have received at The Steadman Clinic since Dr. Steadman founded it many years ago.”
“Dr. Lee represents exactly what we are looking for to head up our operations in Aspen,” said Dr. Marc J. Philippon, managing partner of The Steadman Clinic and co-chair of SPRI. “He is recognized as one of the top rising orthopaedic surgeons in our industry and has embraced the challenges of orthopaedic surgery and sports medicine during his successful tenure at Bighorn Medical Center. I know he will be a great leader for our staff in Aspen and will guide our operations well as we begin to expand our services at Aspen Valley Hospital and our new center in Basalt.”
“Recruiting Dr. Lee demonstrates our commitment to providing world-class patient care in Aspen,” said Dan Drawbaugh, CEO of The Steadman Clinic and SPRI. “As one of our former fellows, Dr.