Lee brings innovation to health care

Dr. Vivan Lee poses for a photo.-Courtesy of Sean Graff Photography Colby Patterson
Dr. Vivan Lee poses for a photo. Photo courtesy of Sean Graff Photography.

Dr. Vivan Lee poses for a photo. Photo courtesy of Sean Graff Photography.

Eric Skelton, a pre-med senior in economics, feels Vivian Lee is “as outstanding a dean as you could have.”

And he is not the only one who feels this way. Lee, dean of the U’s School of Medicine and CEO of the University of Utah Health Care, was recently included in the Becker’s Hospital Review list of the 40 “smartest” people in health care. Lee was included for her commitment to improving quality of care, while still containing costs.

After earning her bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, Lee earned a doctorate in medical engineering from Oxford, a master’s from Harvard and an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business.

The U health care system was ranked No. 1 in the country in 2010, according to University HealthSystem Consortium, and has remained a top ten organization every year since then. Patients enjoy better-than-average health along with some of the lowest costs in the country. Lee believes much of this success is because of the university’s newly designed value-driven outcomes system, which allows the hospital to track the quality of care and patient outcomes alongside costs.

“As we increase quality of care, our costs actually go down,” Lee said. “I believe this work is garnering national attention because what we’re doing could easily be adapted to other health care systems … Perhaps together we can really start to fix our health care system.”

Lee’s goal to fix health care draws many pre-med students to the U. Skelton, a California native, was drawn to the U’s program specifically for its emphasis on innovation. He says the move was well worth it.

“The program is second to none,” said Skelton. “I’d come here ten times out of ten.”

Lee hopes to continue setting the standard for health care throughout the country by designing a system centered around well-being, not illness. This means caring for patients when they are well and keeping them well, rather than waiting until they are sick or injured.

Along with systemic reform, Lee is also focused on scientific innovation.

“We want to make important new discoveries that will have a huge impact on health,” she said. “We want to share what we learn with people across the country and to train our students to be health care leaders of the future.”

a.oligschlaeger@chronicle.utah.edu