Dr. James Lee on Providing Personal Emergency Care
When he looks back on his life years from now, what will matter most is if he left a legacy. That is what board-certified emergency medical physician Dr. James Lee sees every time he steps through the doors of the urgent care center he founded, First Care Winter Haven. “It is meaningful to know I opened an urgent care center and years down the road, whether I’m retired or still working, to know it is a milestone that is continuing to create great value in the community,” says Dr. Lee, a Polk County Medical Association member. “Eight years after opening First Care, it’s meaningful to realize it is still filling a void our community needed.”
The origins of First Care Winter Haven emerged from the years Dr. Lee spent working in hospital emergency rooms, witnessing the good and bad that surfaced in emergency care. “Oftentimes we were handicapped as emergency medical physicians as to how much of the patient’s needs we could attend to, such as wait time and access to services,” he explains.
The aspects of quality customer service and timeliness in appointments were areas that Dr. Lee wanted to focus most on while building First Care. The clinic currently offers not just general urgent care services, but also medical expertise in attending to lacerations, incisions, work-related injuries and even orthopedic care. The clinic also has the availability of laboratory services on site, more than what people usually see in typical walk-in clinics.
Even with the plethora of services, Dr. Lee wanted the most attention concentrated on the patient experience. “As medical professionals, we have to be compassionate and give our full attention to them in care,” he says.
“We should try to see patients on time for their appointments as much as possible and greet our patients in a friendly manner, as they will come in either sick or injured. We want patients to know they have alternate choices available for their fractures or illness than just going to the hospital.”
Spirit of Doing Right
Dr. Lee can trace back his devotion to providing quality care for the Winter Haven community to the example of entrepreneurship embodied in his parents.
First-generation Chinese immigrants, his parents established their own restaurant. They encouraged Dr. Lee and his siblings to seek higher education through the merit of hard work.
“I truly believe that both of my parents instilled in me to try to do things the way you feel they should be done. My father has always been a tremendous role model for me in all aspects of life. Even though he is not in the medical profession, my story would not be complete without mentioning that,” he states.
After graduating from University of South Florida’s College of Medicine in Tampa, with an emergency medicine residency at North Shore Hospital in New York, he returned to Florida for an assistant professor position with the University of Florida ER group at Winter Haven Hospital. He held this position for three years before moving on to establish First Care Winter Haven.
If managing First Care as medical/executive director wasn’t enough, Dr. Lee also is on the committee boards for American Board of Emergency Medicine, American College of Emergency Physicians, and American Academy of Emergency Medicine. He is also a Polk County Medical Association member, a group he considers a “great avenue for providing medical care in the community.”
Dr. Lee also enjoys living the Sunshine State lifestyle via boating, fishing and wakeboarding on Florida lakes with his siblings and their children, who live in Orlando along with his parents. A personal goal of his in coming years is to build his personal legacy through a family of his own, along with taking the time to travel more internationally and join medical missions to third-world countries. “Someone I was talking to the other day reminded me not to work too hard and that life is too short, so I want to live life to the fullest if possible,” he mentions.
As he looks towards the future, especially 2014, Dr. Lee plans to move further with developing First Care while doing his part to improve Polk County healthcare overall. It’s the legacy he wishes to impart on the area for helping him embrace the career he loves. “I hold personal value about what each of us want out of life and what things make us happy,” he concludes.
“You have to be inspired by the work that you do, not just clicking a time clock each day, but doing more to improve the community. It’s about creating something of value in society, and hopefully, leaving a legacy.”
story by BLAIR TOWNLEY