PD Member of the Month

jason lee

Jason Lee, MD, Chief of Vascular Surgery

Stanford Health Care

President, APDVS

What is your personal background in vascular surgery education (how long have you worked in the vascular field, why did you choose vascular surgery, etc.)?

I became interested in vascular surgery working in Rod White’s lab 25 years ago studying animal models of early generation EVAR/TEVAR devices. Came to Stanford as a vascular fellow to continue working on aortic clinical trials and complex EVAR. I always focused on educational interests, being invited to my first APDVS by Ron Dalman as a trainee in 2005, and was excited about all the emphasis and opportunities to improve vascular surgery education. At the time high fidelity simulation was taking off, and with the help and interest of many colleagues across the country including our Secretary/Treasurer, Mal Sheahan, launched our interest in Fundamentals of Vascular Surgery and skills assessment.

What is the most rewarding part of your job? as a vascular surgery Program Director? What is the most challenging part of your job?

I was PD from 2011-2020 at Stanford and really enjoyed the daily interaction with trainees and helping to shape this next generation of vascular surgeons. As one of the early adopters of the integrated program we had the opportunity to meet many of the young students applying in VS and doing visiting sub-I’s, and it has been very rewarding to see many folks back even if they didn’t train with us at the meetings and even applying for our jobs! One of the most challenging part of being PD for me has been balancing the ever-changing needs of learners and the shift of our hospitals towards efficiency/speed/turnover. I have always championed the trainee educational environment, and making choices that maximize the trainee’s experience. I think that is important for us to engage our learners and assure our future is bright.

What are your personal goals within the vascular field?

I have had the amazing fortune to be trained and mentored by many of the best surgeons, interventionalists, and scientists in our field. I hope to be able to pass that knowledge onto the next generation in a responsible way that focuses on trainee education, cutting edge technology, and optimal patient care for all.

If you had a blank check to change medical education in America, what would you do first?

I would remove debt from our surgical trainees. The delayed gratification of choosing vascular surgery given the length in years of training creates a lot of debt for our future!

From your perspective, what qualities make a successful vascular surgery applicant?

Many might have heard me talk about emotional stamina, a different perspective on the popular phrase of EQ or grit. Vascular surgery training and practice can be physically and emotionally challenging with the toughest patients undergoing the toughest operations. I think successful vascular surgical trainees have emotional stamina, and weather the ups and downs of training, their lives, attending’s lives, patient lives, and the world. I want our vascular surgery applicants to go for this up and down ride with us as the end game is very satisfying!

What is a "fun fact" about yourself that you would like others to know?

I continue to search out all the vascular surgery colleagues among us that play tennis! As many know, I carry my gear to all meetings and am constantly looking for new partners and colleagues to play tennis with. 

How and Why did you get involved with the EC of APDVS? 

I was fortunate to get involved as a trainee and met many leaders of APDVS as a fellow, expressing a desire to get involved in simulation. Our current SVS president and former APDVS president, Joe Mills, had the foresight to create a simulation committee 16 years ago, and has always been a champion of inspiring younger talent and interest in our specialty. He and many other APDVS leaders encouraged many of us to stay involved and gave us opportunities to work together in APDVS. I am forever grateful for those opportunities.

What leadership skills do you bring to your role in the APDVS Executive Council? 

It has been an absolute privilege and honor of mine to lead the APDVS out of the pandemic, and we have really focused on the educational environment for the trainees (particularly the vulnerable trainee), but we also have focused on empowering the PD. I fully understand there has been tremendous turnover amongst our ranks of PDs, and as the administrative needs of programs has exponentially increased, I am so thankful to all of the volunteerism and professionalism that our specialty brings to our trainees day in and day out. I have mainly tried to apply my organizational skills, and as many of my EC knows, sometimes some bullish “let’s just get it done” enthusiasm to complete the VISIT trial giving us valuable insights into in-person interviews for residency. I’m proud of all that we’ve done this past 2 years, and look forward to continuing to learn more!

What changes have you made or would like to see in the future of vascular surgery Education?

Listening to our PDs and trainees will be key to making vascular surgery even better than it is. There is so much interest in our specialty, and the pipeline is ripe with amazing talent. Connecting the rising interest of future and current trainees with resources and enthusiasm of our PDs and faculty will continue to make our specialty thrive!