Daniel Lee, MD, AAHIVS
UCSD Medical Center, Owen Clinic
San Diego, California
Owen Clinic is the HIV clinic for the University of California, San Diego’s Medical Center where the collective HIV team cares for over 3,000 people living with HIV. Located next to UCSD Medical Center in the Hillcrest area of San Diego, Owen Clinic has approximately 8 full-time physicians, multiple part-time physicians, and four mid-level providers. In addition, they have a large staff including nurses, 3 clinical pharmacists on site; in addition to 4 psychiatrists, 1 substance addiction counselor, 1 registered dietician and 2 social workers. They provide subspecialty care including co-infection with HCV & HIV, anal dysplasia and lipid/lipodystrophy. The Lipodystrophy Clinic is run by Dr. Lee. Lee is currently responsible for approximately 250 patients. He serves as both their HIV provider and primary care provider. The Lipodystrophy Clinic focuses on managing a variety of metabolic complications of ARV therapy such as metabolic complications like dyslipidemia, diabetes/insulin resistance, bone disease, wasting, etc.
The demographic population he serves is diverse – mostly MSM (85%), 10% women, 20% Latino, 12% African-American. Says Lee, “The demographics are changing slowly, but we are starting to see more ethnic minority patients, heterosexually acquired HIV infection, slightly more women. About 48% of our population is over the age of 50.”
Dr. Lee studied medicine at UCSD and did his fellowship in the clinic where he works today. Lee has been treating people living with HIV since 1998. Lee was motivated to pursue HIV medicine after losing his partner to HIV in 1993.
Lee says the most rewarding part of his job is “the privilege I get to interact with people who are often marginalized and forgotten because of stigma related to HIV and provide the best medical care to improve the quality of life for our patients. Many of our patients are some of the most appreciative and recognize the quality of the care that the Owen Clinic provides.”
“The greatest obstacle that I face as a physician these days is how to inspire patients to live without fear. Often times, from a physical health standpoint, HIV is very easy to treat as antiretroviral therapy is quite good. However, we are seeing many patients whose CD4 and VL are well-controlled but they struggle with mental health issues of anxiety and depression, which severely impacts their quality of life, often more than their HIV does.”
Lee believes the key to patient adherence to regimens stems from building rapport with them and working collaboratively to identify challenges to adherence. Says Lee, “By being nonjudgmental, one can often figure out a strategy to improve adherence that works.”
Lee is a supporter of Kelee Meditation (www.thekelee.org) as a way to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. He hopes to bring more awareness about Kelee Meditation and how it can benefit patients and medical providers alike. Looking to the future, Lee hopes we will be closer to finding a cure for HIV. He envisions there may be longer acting medications that may be given every month, by injection or pill, instead of a need to take meds daily. Unfortunately, Lee also foresees a shortage of HIV medical providers in the future and he hopes that primary care providers will start to treat more HIV.
Outside of his practice, Dr. Lee is an avid tennis player and enjoys playing poker. Asked why he is an AAHIVM Member, Lee says, “I joined AAHIVM initially for HIV Specialist Credentialing, but recently joined the California/Hawaii Steering Committee to try to make a difference and improve care for our HIV patients and to provide more support to HIV medical providers.
To read previous Member Spotlight articles, click here!