Meet Dr Samatha Lee

25 Aug 2021

Dr Samantha Lee graduated from UQ Ochsner in 2016 and is now a PGY4 radiology resident at Northwell Health in Long Island. Next year, she’ll be pursuing a fellowship in paediatric diagnostic and interventional radiology at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Originally from New Jersey, Dr Lee went to college at Columbia University where she ran track and studied Hispanic Studies. From there, she pursued a graduate degree at the Special Master’s Program in Georgetown. We invite Dr Lee to join our alumni panel and asked her to reflect on her medical journey.

Why did you choose to study medicine at UQ Ochsner?

I ultimately decided to pursue the opportunity for a few different reasons. Firstly, it was just such a unique experience. It would be so different from what many other medical students would be able to experience, and I really loved that opportunity.

Additionally, I liked that at the time I was starting, there were only five graduating classes. I actually really enjoyed the fact that it was still a newer program. I felt like because of that, we as a class, and as a program in general, we would have a lot of say in the direction that the program takes. And, I felt that to be true. I felt like we were always well heard by our administration and those looking after us. And, I think a lot of the direction of the program has since taken onboard our comments as students, and I just really appreciated that they were willing to hear us and implement those changes.

And, the third reason I ultimately decided to pursue this experience was the opportunity to travel. I had an interest in global health and I felt like this would be a good way of getting my foot through the door in that field of medicine.

How did you become interested in radiology?

I ended up falling into radiology based on a clinical rotation at Ochsner. I was a third-year medical student and had just come off my surgery rotation, which I absolutely loved. I overheard someone talking about interventional radiology, which sparked an interest. I started rotating with the radiology department and, ultimately, fell in love with the whole field. I really enjoyed that I could still see such a broad spectrum of pathology, and I had to know so much as a physician from your basic anatomy and physiology, all the way to   extreme diseases. And, then I would still be able to perform procedures through the interventional aspect.

Was the opportunity to practise back in your home state important to you?

I'm currently doing my residency at Northwell Health in Long island. Most of my family is still in this area so that was my main reason for coming back up northeast. But, my graduating class, as well as those before me, are spread all across the country, and I really felt like we had an opportunity to practise at so many different hospitals, scattered all around.

It was just my decision to come back towards this area because my family is here in New Jersey. I appreciated that I was a part of a program that allowed me to do this.

How has training across two health systems shaped the doctor you’re today?

In terms of how I feel training in both Brisbane and New Orleans has shaped me as a doctor, I think the biggest thing I took away from it was the sense of community. As soon as you get to Brisbane, you're immediately immersed with students from all over. You practise with Australians, Canadians and fellow Americans from all other states. You are integrated with them and you work very closely. Through that, I learned to interact with people from all over and appreciate different perspectives.

Within our class in general, we just had such a sense of comradery. We got together as often as possible and I think we've really built a sense of family because we were so far from our own. So, that has since shaped a lot of how I practise medicine currently because I get involved with a lot of different organisations. I was social chair during my time as in medical school and currently I'm president of the Resident Fellow Association at Northwell. So, I really value that sense of camaraderie and community, and I think so much of that was rooted in my experience at UQ Ochsner because we had the exposure to that from such an early stage in my training.         

I'm still very close with people that I've worked with in Australia. We've kept in touch and if they visit New York, I'll meet up with them. And, I'm still very close with people that I worked with in my classes. I'm grateful for the friendships that I was able to take away from that experience as well.

What was it like living in Brisbane and New Orleans?

Brisbane is absolutely beautiful. It's very outdoorsy and the weather is usually perfect, except for the hottest days of the summer, which can be an extreme heat that you may not have experienced before. But otherwise, it was such a wonderful place to train and, of course, your opportunity to travel that side of the world is a huge benefit. We took trips within Australia, but also in the surrounding area, New Zealand and Southeast Asia - those were popular destinations.

New Orleans was just one of the best cities I've ever lived in as well. They truly valued community and culture. The food is outstanding and there's always something going on. Again, I think that had a lot to do with why our class and our program was so close. We really were given the opportunity to do things together so frequently, and I think we took advantage of that because we were just put in a situation for a few years where we were forced to be very close with one another, and it just continued during our training throughout medical school.

Any final words of wisdom?

I would definitely recommend the program. I feel like if you are going to pursue this program, you need to be somewhat independent because you do have to realise you're going to be far from your friends and family. But, like I said, you're going to build those relationships because you just kind of have to.

And, another angle of your independence needs to be a sense of self autonomy and the ability to self-teach because your curriculum is slightly different from that in the United States and, so you want to make sure that you're preparing yourself as best as possible to maintain the information the students training in the United States need to know, and you just have to stay on top of that information as well.        

And, you always have the support of your peers and the administration to help you do that. So, I always felt well-prepared, I feel really strong in my training now, and I have a lot of gratitude for UQ Ochsner forcing me to demonstrate that self-discipline, that self- autonomy, self-learning. You're going to have to do that no matter what in your career, so I'm very thankful that I was asked to do so early on. I think it's set me up really nicely for my training and just my career in general.