Dr Joe Lee, Clinical Lead KW4, WWLHIN
Like the new medical graduates we teach in our family practice at the Centre for Family Medicine (CFFM) in Kitchener, I became a physician to help people. It’s my hope our medical students and residents don’t lose the passion of wanting to help others. I’ve been privileged in my more than 30 years of practice to know and build trusting relationships with many patients. Unfortunately, not all people and families have the opportunity for the continuity of a long-term relationship with a primary care provider, one of the challenges we face in our system.
I have had the fortune to be the founding Chair and Lead Physician at CFFM Family Health Team (FHT). We’re the largest family health team in Kitchener-Waterloo with 20 family practices across four locations, with more than 100 staff caring for approximately 27,000 patients. We’re a team of people with a common goal. Simply, at its base, we’re people caring for people. We work with other groups to help the general community, including people with the greatest needs. We’re particularly interested in finding ways to help the most vulnerable among us, those with the most complex needs.
In addition to providing primary care to people, the Centre for Family Medicine has education, research and innovation divisions, areas in which I have interest personally. We’re an academic FHT affiliated with the McMaster University Department of Family Medicine, the University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy and the Schlegel Research Institute for Aging. I helped to found the Waterloo Regional Medical School and the McMaster Kitchener-Waterloo Family Medicine Residency program. Currently, I am the Assessment Director for McMaster’s Department of Family Medicine, an Associate Clinical Professor, and conduct primary care research in areas such as severe physical disabilities and inter-professional teams and education.
The Centre for Family Medicine FHT leads the KW4 Health Link (in Kitchener, Waterloo, Wellesley, Wilmot and Woolwich) and the KW4 Leadership Table. I chair these entities which help to connect high users of the local health care system with health care providers and community agencies. An example of this work is the Community Ward, an inter-professional team in KW4 that does house calls to assist physicians and others to care for very complex, high users of the health care system.
Since 2017, I’ve been the Clinical Lead for KW4 for the Waterloo Wellington LHIN and am working at the system level to try to make it easier for local residents to get the care they need. I believe we’re slowly moving in the right direction – towards innovation and improvement. We need to continue to increase coordination and integration among health care professionals, hospitals, and the wider system. Hopefully, people can be more informed, more engaged and empowered.
Fundamentally, we need to reflect on what we value and have our actions align with this. The health system needs to have a sustainable structure for the future where there is a fair and equitable allocation of resources to those who need them the most. There will always be limits to what we can spend and what we can do. Our community and health system need to be built on relationships and caring for each other. Those who are marginalized and disenfranchised need to feel that they belong, that they are connected. It all begins with that desire to help a fellow person which is the calling of health professionals. My own transformational journey began years ago. In medical school anatomy class – over a dead body – I met my wife. Linda and I were soon dissecting hand in hand and thus began the road which would lead us to life in Kitchener-Waterloo and the Centre for Family Medicine.