May 26, 1937 – May 7, 2013
Dr. Richard V. Lee, a physician and educator known for his work with isolated native populations around the world, died Tuesday after he was stricken in his Orchard Park home. He was 75.
Dr. Lee was a professor of medicine and anthropology at the University at Buffalo and also maintained a private practice.
“He was a general practitioner in every sense of the word,” said his son Matthew Lee, noting the irony that his father specialized in tropical medicine but lived in Buffalo.
Dr. 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 University, where Dr. 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.
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. He also provided health services in Thailand to refugees from Laos and Cambodia. His work with Tibetan refugees in India later led to an acquaintance with the Dalai Lama, and Dr. Lee was part of the committee that brought him to speak in Buffalo in 2006.
Early in his career, Dr. Lee was a physician with the Indian Health Service at the Fort Peck Reservation in eastern Montana.
He moved to Buffalo and began working at UB in 1976. He also was medical director for Ecology and Environment in Lancaster and was head of the Department of Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Buffalo from 1979 to 1996.
He also was a consulting physician for the Buffalo Zoo and the Bronx Zoo.
Dr. Lee supported local cultural groups and served on the board of the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. He also donated a number of rare books to the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library and to other collections.
Dr. Lee was a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in London and the Explorers Club in New York. He was 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 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.
In addition to his son, Dr. Lee is survived by his wife of 52 years, the former Susan Bradley, and another son, Benjamin. The University at Buffalo will schedule a memorial service.