Howard Lee, MD, MPH
A Medical Maestro
There aren’t many board-certified oncologists who are also members of the American Guild of Organists. But Medical Director Howard Lee finds that his two passions fit together perfectly. “Medicine and music are so similar – there is a personal side to both, where you need to be able to both lead and follow,” he says. “Each of them is like a dance.”
A New York native, Howard began learning piano at the age of five, taking up conducting in college while majoring in chemistry as an undergraduate at Harvard, and studying organ while he attended Columbia Medical School.
In addition to his leadership role at Mission Hospice, he has previously volunteered his time as organist at St. Timothy’s Episcopal in Mountain View, and subsequently worked in various professional capacities as organist, piano accompanist, and choir director for several local churches. With a broad smile, he is quick to add that (together with his wife, an oncologist at Stanford – and a violinist) he is also a happy parent of an energetic toddler.
Howard was inspired by physician and humanitarian Albert Schweitzer, who was also an accomplished organist and musicologist. Schweitzer wrote that medicine is both science and art – the art of one person interacting with another.
Like his role model, Howard is passionate about helping those in need. He has volunteered on medical trips to rural and impoverished areas of Brazil, Guatemala, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. He worked with his brother, also a physician, to care for tsunami victims in Sri Lanka; most recently, he travelled to Outer Mongolia to provide home hospice care for patients.
After working more than a decade in county health systems for the underserved – including as a public health officer and oncologist – Howard became board-certified in hospice and palliative medicine, fields he feels are a natural fit with oncology. He is drawn to Mission Hospice’s model of interdisciplinary, quality care, and is proud to be Medical Director. He is also on adjunct faculty at Stanford (where he completed his fellowship training in bone marrow transplantation) as Clinical Assistant Professor in Oncology, and is dedicated to integrating palliative medicine with the care of his cancer patients.
“I have always been interested in serving patients beyond a clinic or hospital setting,” he says. “I am so fortunate to be able to care for patients at a crucial point in their lives, and to help assuage their fears and concerns.”
“All of our experiences are interconnected,” he continues. Howard is delighted when he has the opportunity to play music for a patient who has a piano in their home. “Music is a unique way to connect to someone’s soul.”
“One of the things I really enjoy about hospice care,” he says, “is that all the experience you have comes to bear, including music. All the things that I am interested in have brought me to this point, so I can do my best to serve my patients.”