Leeway: Reaching Beyond Expectations. Dr. K.J. Lee’s Journey from the Hideouts of Penang to Harvard and Beyond

KJ Lee
Guilford, CT, USA

Series: Distinguished Men and Women of Science, Medicine and the Arts
BISAC: BIO017000


Volume 10

Issue 1

Volume 2

Volume 3

Special issue: Resilience in breaking the cycle of children’s environmental health disparities
Edited by I Leslie Rubin, Robert J Geller, Abby Mutic, Benjamin A Gitterman, Nathan Mutic, Wayne Garfinkel, Claire D Coles, Kurt Martinuzzi, and Joav Merrick


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K.J. Lee is a world-renowned otolaryngologist and head and neck surgeon. Born in Malaya in 1940 during World War II, through his indefatigable spirit, talent and hard work he was able to change his life. Traveling to America in 1958 to study at Harvard on a full-tuition scholarship, he went on to make an indelible contribution to his chosen medical specialty. Among his many achievements, his drive and determination to support the next generation of ENT surgeons and to improve the healthcare experience for patients stand out.

These vocations led to his publications of over 30 books and the seminal textbook, K.J. Lee’s Essential Otolaryngology. It is considered the most widely read text in the field in the world, translated into several languages. This memoir covers his work as a government adviser for healthcare reform, and his founding the nonprofit foundation to encourage caregivers to treat patients as if caregivers are the patients, ‘TPIU’ (The Patient Is U). In this memoir, he shares his inspiring tale. In his usual spirit of encouraging and supporting the development of junior colleagues, Dr. Lee has chosen to tell his story through three Columbia University writers – Sally Jee, Clementine Li, and Coco Ruan. Their own education and background have enabled them to fully understand and appreciate his story and communicate it in the words and style of K.J. himself, capturing his very essence and his unmistakable voice. Leeway is a tale of hard work and perseverance, reaching beyond expectations, positivity and forward-thinking, love and family, and above all, success against the odds.

(A memoir of surgeon K. J. Lee. Reaching Beyond Expectations, from the hideouts of Penang to Harvard and beyond; determination, hard work, ingenuity, emphasizing check lists that you look at frequently, anticipating problems and avoiding them, making lemonade out of lemons, being empathetic, learning from adversities and mistakes and trusting God’s guidance. God helps those who help themselves. With God, all things are possible.)
(Imprint: Nova)



(Keyu Liu)

Chapter 1. The Lemons of His Life
(Clementine Xinyi Li)

Chapter 2. Don’t Take No for an Answer
(Coco Kejia Ruan)

Chapter 3. Father and Son
(Clementine Xinyi Li)

Chapter 4. Departure for a New World
(Sally Hyun Jung Jee)

Chapter 5. The Ferncliff
(Sally Hyun Jung Jee)

Chapter 6. Space Race and the Race of Life
(Clementine Xinyi Li)

Chapter 7. Broken Cars and Broken Dreams, Everyone’s Hero
(Clementine Xinyi Li)

Chapter 8. Surprise After Surprise
(Coco Kejia Ruan)

Chapter 9. The Trip Where Everything Went Wrong
(Clementine Xinyi Li)

Chapter 10. Off Guard
(Coco Kejia Ruan)

Chapter 11. Have I Met You Before?
(Coco Kejia Ruan)

Chapter 12. ‘K.J.’ Was Coined
(Coco Kejia Ruan)

Chapter 13. Residency
(Sally Hyun Jung Jee)

Chapter 14. The Army
(Sally Hyun Jung Jee)

Chapter 15. K.J. Lee’s Essential Otolaryngology
(Sally Hyun Jung Jee)

Chapter 16. The Man from Timbuktu
(Sally Hyun Jung Jee)

Chapter 17. The Items He Left Behind
(Sally Hyun Jung Jee)

Chapter 18. “Dr. Lee, Please Pray Before You Operate”
(Coco Kejia Ruan)

Chapter 19. K.J.’s Cardinal Rules
Coco Kejia Ruan

Chapter 20.It Does Not Have To End This Way
(Clementine Xinyi Li)

Chapter 21. Appreciate Strengths and Manage Weaknesses
(Coco Kejia Ruan)

Chapter 22. Untangling the Healthcare Web
(Clementine Xinyi Li)

Chapter 23. The Patient Is U Foundation, Inc
(Sally Hyun Jung Jee)

Chapter 24. Epilogue


"KJ Lee had an inauspicious start as a young child growing up in war-torn Malaya. Despite this he rose to the heights of great esteem and acclaim that he earned along the path to manhood and sage-status in the United States of America. One almost immediately senses in the book an elusive and driven quality in him as a very young man who was destined to change the imperfect world that was handed to him. He did this not for him alone, but for all he would meet along the way. His physical and emotional journey takes him beyond the security and comforts of family and familiarity. It takes him across the world while a mere teenager alone on a ship; not to seek his fortune but to create it. Despite now being world renowned as a scholar, a writer, a professor, an innovator and inventor, as well as an acclaimed surgeon, he is a humble, unassuming, kind and gracious man."READ MORE... - Dr. Stephanie Paulmeno, President: Connecticut Nurses Association, President: Communities 4 Action, Chairman of the Board: The Patient is U Foundation, Inc.

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