Benjamin R. Lee, MD, has been named chair of the Department of Urology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson.
“Following a national search that yielded several outstanding candidates, the decision was made that the internal candidate and interim chair, Dr. Benjamin Lee represented our best choice for a permanent chair,” said Michael M. I. Abecassis, MD, MBA, dean of the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson, which is part of UArizona Health Sciences. “Patient care, research, education and training in urology has advanced significantly under Dr. Lee’s leadership since joining the faculty in 2016. We look forward to continued excellence and growth, fueled by ongoing innovation.”
Dr. Lee was recruited to the College of Medicine – Tucson to lead what was then the urology division in the Department of Surgery. Two years ago, he was named interim chair of a new Department of Urology. During his tenure in both roles, the urology program witnessed major growth, including an increase in faculty and clinical providers from three to 15, a 43% increase in clinical visits and a 50% increase in surgical procedures. While his recent focus centered on the clinical front, Dr. Lee also has grown the department’s academic profile, building a national reputation and developing the discipline of urology at the college to No. 31 on the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research rankings of National Institutes of Health funding.
A leading authority on the robotic treatment of renal cell carcinoma and a urology and urological oncology specialist, Dr. Lee sees patients at Banner – University Medical Center Tucson. He is on the cutting edge of innovation, recently employing a new da Vinci single port robotic surgery system on a procedure to save part of a patient’s cancerous kidney. The system employs four robotic instruments that are able to clamp, cut, and sew – going through a single incision to complete the procedure.
“Here in our hospital in Tucson, our team was the first to do what’s called a robotic single port partial nephrectomy, where we were able to cut out the cancer and save 75% of a remaining kidney, all through one small incision,” he said. “And that’s enough to keep the patient off dialysis if, God forbid, anything happens to the other kidney.”
Dr. Lee graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University before earning his medical degree at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where he completed his residency training in surgery and urology. Prior to coming to Tucson, Dr. Lee served as professor and fellowship director of the robotics, laparoscopy and endourology program at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans. Before Tulane, Dr. Lee was an associate professor and co-director of the laparoscopy and endourology fellowship program at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Northshore Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York.
Dr. Lee is currently the George W. Drach Endowed Chair in Urology at the College of Medicine – Tucson and the recipient of multiple awards, including the Arthur Smith Award, presented at the World Congress of Endourology in Shanghai, China, and Information Technology Innovators and 21st Century Pioneer awards from the Smithsonian Institution. As a resident, he and his team did groundbreaking work on remote robotic surgery that is housed in the permanent research collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
“It was very kind of them to include our research, as both my clinical and research interests are in robotic surgery for kidney cancer and prostate cancer,” Dr. Lee said. “That was a great moment in my life. I was living in Singapore, and we actually did telesurgery projects from there and from Thailand, Italy and New York for the World Congress of Endourology.”
Dr. Lee is a member of several prestigious professional societies, serves on the board of directors for the Western Section of the American Urological Association, has over 170 manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals, and is a federally funded scientific investigator. He also is a member of the Clinical and Translational Oncology Program at the UArizona Cancer Center and is enrolled in the executive MBA program at the UArizona Eller College of Management.
To schedule a clinical appointment with Dr. Lee, please call 520-694-4032.