Meet Dr. Jin Lee, of CHoR

Dr. Jin LeeFrom her fifth-floor office at the Children’s Pavilion, Dr. Jin Lee reflected on her first few months as chief of Pediatric Cardiology at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.

“It’s been really great. I feel like it’s exactly what I hoped it would be,” said Lee, an internationally admired interventional cardiologist.

Behind her, a large window revealed the busy streets of downtown Richmond. Things have gotten more hectic lately, with the construction of CHoR’s new $350+ million inpatient facility next door. Lee helped plan the hospital’s cardiovascular suite, which will include an operating room, a combined electrophysiology/catheterization lab and a hybrid catheterization/surgical lab. For now, she performs interventions at Pauley. “They have a reserved room for me,” she said.

Pauley Director, Dr. Greg Hundley is excited about her arrival. “She’s very compassionate and an excellent physician and has an enormous appreciation for research. She is going to be a phenomenal leader and researcher for the institution and a critical care provider for the children of Central Virginia,” he said.

Lee arrived to Richmond from the Hospital for Sick Children of Toronto, where she also served her residency and fellowship. The hospital has one of the highest volumes of pediatric cardiac catheterizations and surgeries in North America.

“She’s very compassionate and an excellent physician and has an enormous appreciation for research.

Some of her common cath lab procedures include diagnostics, correcting heart valves that are obstructed or impaired, enlarging blood vessels with stents, and closing holes or other defects. She treats patients who were born with structural heart problems as well as those who have acquired heart disease from infection, sickle cell disease, cancer treatment and even obesity–a growing problem in Richmond, she said.

Lee also has expertise in echocardiography, pulmonary hypertension, cardiac intensive care and transplantation.

“I was part of the team at Toronto that did the first ABO incompatible heart transplant on a newborn. It was a really exciting time because we were doing something that no one else had done in the world,” she said, with a smile.  Some babies are placed on the transplant list in utero. “They have a problem that’s identified that will cause them to have difficulty surviving.”

There are not many pediatric cardiologists in the world with Lee’s level of experience, said Dr. Thomas Yeh, Jr., CHoR’s chief of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery. Yeh was a fellow at the Toronto hospital with Lee and helped recruit her to CHoR. “Jin is a fantastically skilled interventional cardiologist. She brings a new level of experience not only to Richmond but really to the East Coast,” he said. “She’s the consummate cardiologist wrapped up in an incredibly nice and caring person.”

Children's Hospital of Richmond renderingWhile receiving her medical degree at University of Toronto Medical School, Lee felt drawn to pediatrics. “Children are special because there’s a natural instinct for us to want to just take care of them, and I think everybody who does pediatrics always feels compelled to do that extra bit more when children are involved,” she said.

She brings a new level of experience not only to Richmond but really to the East Coast,” he said. “She’s the consummate cardiologist wrapped up in an incredibly nice and caring person.”

She also liked the challenge. “It is incredibly interesting in terms of the variety of heart disease that we encounter. A large portion of our patient population has congenital heart disease, meaning they are born with problems. There are really thousands of variations of what we can see, and every heart is actually quite unique.”

And now, after two decades in Toronto, she’s decided to take on the challenge of helping to build a cardiovascular program and a new hospital. The goal is for CHoR to be among the top 20 children’s hospitals in the U.S. by 2022.

“Probably the biggest draw for me was the scope and the ambition of the vision here, and the fact that it was really coming from all levels of the VCU Health enterprise, with tremendous support from the Children’s Hospital Foundation,” she said.