Irby-James Award for Excellence in Clinical Teaching

If you are a child, being in the hospital on Halloween is pretty awful. But, if you were following the pediatric hospital ward team around on Halloween last year, you would have seen Dr. Clifton Lee dressed head to toe as Darth Vader, accompanied by residents and medical students dressed as other Star Wars characters – all to the great delight of the patients and family members there that day. This understanding of the “big picture” of treating pediatric patients, and the ability to pass this perspective on to his students and trainees are two reasons why Dr. Lee receives such high praise for his teaching.

“Dr. Lee truly understands that treating the whole patient is not only about lab work and medications, but encompasses the whole person, including their spirit,” declares Emily Godbout, D.O., former Pediatric resident and currently a fellow in the division of pediatric infectious disease. “He is bright, a compassionate physician, inspiring teacher, a superb mentor, a friend, and above all…has what I like to call an ‘unshakable decency’.”

Dr. Lee graduated from medical school and completed his pediatric residency at VCU. After time working in the community, he returned to VCU in 2011 as Associate Professor and Chief of the Division of Hospital Medicine, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, helping to establish our pediatric hospitalist program. He is a core educator in the pediatric residency program and in 2003 he became Co-Clerkship Director for the Pediatric Clerkship. He acts as attending physician for over four months of the year on the inpatient pediatric service, and consistently receives outstanding evaluations from medical students and residents.

Known for his compassionate bedside manner, Dr. Lee has led the implementation of family-centered rounds as the standard of care on all pediatric units. He developed a simulation exercise so that medical students can practice presenting patients in a family-centered manner. He has been a leader in teaching residents ways to improve patient hand-offs to ensure continuity of care and patient safety.

His commitment to evidence-based medicine is a hallmark of Dr. Lee’s teaching, and it makes a profound impact on those around him. “Every morning on rounds, one can fi nd Dr. Lee with a stack of neatly printed peer-reviewed articles, waiting for just the right moment in the patient presentation to present them,” recalls Miki Nishitani, Medicine class of 2016. “Not only does this provide us with the most up-to-date data on certain diagnostic criteria, it also allows us to reevaluate our initial management plans to ensure that we are in accordance with the evidence in the fi eld.” Dr. Lee has implemented an evidence-based medicine debate at the end of each M3 rotation, challenging students to evaluate evidence and determine how it will affect their future practice.

Dr. Lee is equally committed to having his medical students and residents contribute to building evidence. He is sought after as a research project mentor, and expertly guides and supports residents in developing their own scholarly activities, including scholarly articles and presentations for national meetings. Dr. Lee has led the Hospitalist Division in starting the only Academic Pediatric Hospitalist program in Virginia.

In 2015 Dr. Lee was recognized by his peers as a Senior Fellow in the Society of Hospital Medicine, signifying his commitment to excellent clinical care and professional development.

“Dr. Lee always took the time to teach us about our patients.” What more could any of us, patient or professional, want? So – if you spot Darth Vader in the hospital in a couple of weeks, rest assured that he is using the Force for the good of our learners, patients, and their families.