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Spring/Summer 2010

Ambassadors in Abu Dhabi

Lee raises the health care bar for women at Al Corniche Hospital.

Date: May 15, 2010

Judy Lee

As a child, gynecologist Judy Lee was intrigued by what the old song called “faraway places with strange-sounding names.” Born on Taiwan but raised near Petersburg, Va., her decision to become a physician merged with a desire “to find out what was out there” in the world.

Last September, Lee was tapped by Johns Hopkins Medicine International (JHI) to become chief medical officer of Al Corniche Hospital in Abu Dhabi, a 235-bed maternity hospital that JHI has managed since 2008. The 41-year-old Lee, who holds an executive MBA from New York University, comes to her new “faraway” post with a generously stamped passport. She previously worked for JHI to upgrade obstetrical care in China, Japan, and Turkey; spent several months running a maternity ward in Sri Lanka; and completed a Hopkins residency rotation in a Kathmandu maternity hospital, among other things.

Now at Al Corniche, she oversees a medical staff of 150-plus physicians and 400 nurses who “come from all over,” creating a United Nations-type atmosphere, she says.

Abu Dhabi City—capital of both the Abu Dhabi emirate and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to which it belongs—has 1.45 million inhabitants and a burgeoning need for modern health care. Al Corniche, the UAE’s largest maternity hospital, provides a substantial share. “We have 40 percent of the Abu Dhabi market for deliveries,” says Lee. “We have 10,000 deliveries a year and outpatient visits of about 75,000 a year. We’re doing easily 200 outpatient visits a day.”

Under the leadership of Ronald Lavater, formerly a Florida hospital executive who JHI appointed as CEO of Al Corniche in January 2009, the hospital—funded by the UAE’s health authority—has been getting new equipment and is planning expansion of its neonatal intensive care unit from 50 to 68 beds, notes Lee. The modernized facilities and enhanced collaboration among staff are aimed at improving the treatment for “all of the locals who come to us,” Lee says—not just the Abu Dhabians but European “expats,” Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, and Sri Lankans.

“It’s really about raising the bar of what women deserve as a right,” she says, “and that’s access to good quality care.” Neil A. Grauer