Medical leader and surgeon R. Hewlett Lee dies at 89

Lee was a major voice in Palo Alto, Stanford and state medical affairs

R. Hewlett "Hewey" Lee, M.D., a leader for decades in medical affairs in Palo Alto, Stanford University and statewide, died Wednesday after several years of declining health. He was 89.

Dr. Lee was known for his skill as a surgeon, his warmth with patients and others, and his sense of humor, and had been recognized by numerous awards during his life.

He was the son of the late Dr. Russel Van Arsdale Lee, who founded the Palo Alto Clinic (later the Palo Alto Medical Clinic) in 1930 after several years of practicing medicine in Palo Alto as a partner with Dr. Tom Williams. The clinic later combined with the nonprofit Palo Alto Medical Research Foundation to become the Palo Alto Medical Foundation.

He was the youngest of Dr. Lee's four sons -- the others being Richard, Pete and Phil -- and he had a younger sister, Margo; all of his siblings achieved M.D. degrees.

Hewlett Lee's interests were broad and varied, ranging from surgery to teaching and photography. He was a general surgeon who specialized in breast-cancer surgery, retiring from active surgery in 1989 but remaining involved as a board member of both the Palo Alto Medical Foundation and Stanford Hospital.

At the time of his retirement at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Dr. Lee served as executive director of the physician partnership and vice president for health care, heading up the Health Care Division.

He was a graduate of Stanford University School of Medicine, where he developed a love of teaching. It would have become his career had he not been voted in as a partner at the Palo Alto Medical Clinic in 1956 by other partners, during an absence of his father. He continued teaching at Stanford even as his career as a surgeon blossomed.

He also was instrumental in the creation of a health coverage plan designed to increase access to health insurance and care to persons of moderate or lower incomes. He had an avid interest in trends in medicine, including politics and government programs.

He also had a personal interest in nature photography, developing and printing his own photos.

Dr. Lee was predeceased by two siblings, Richard Lee and Margo Paulsen. He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth; four children, Virginia, Phyllis, Eric and Stan; and six grandchildren. He is also survived by his brothers, Pete and Phil Lee.

There are no plans at present for a memorial service.

– Jay Thorwaldson

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4 people like this
Posted by Al Dempsey
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 22, 2016 at 7:40 am

I'm curious about the comment made in the above obit that R. Hewlett Lee was named after HP cofounder William Hewlett.

William Hewlett was born in May, 1913. Hewlett Lee was 89 at the time of his death which means he was born either in 1926 or 1927. It seems a bit odd (to me) that someone would name his son after a 13 year old boy (whose success lay in the future). I'm sure there more to this story and it would be interesting to hear it.

My condolences to the Lee family.

4 people like this
Posted by Brendan
a resident of Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde
on Jan 22, 2016 at 10:50 pm

Hi, my grandfather Hewey was named after Bill Hewlett's father, who was also a doctor and a peer of my great grandather.

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