Paul S. and Allene T. Russell Professor, University of Chicago

Raphael Lee

Dr. Lee, the Paul S. and Allene T. Russell Professor at the University of Chicago, is plastic surgeon and biomedical engineer. He holds appointments in Surgery, Medicine (Dermatology), Translational Medicine and Organismal Biology & Anatomy (Biomechanics). He is a Fellow of The Institute for Molecular Engineering and directs the Center for Molecular Regeneration at the University. He is also a founder and director the Chicago Electrical Trauma Rehabilitation Institute, all of Chicago, Illinois. He completed general surgery residency at the University of Chicago and plastic surgery residency at the Harvard University/Massachusetts General Hospital. During his residencies he also completed a doctoral (ScD) dissertation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Harvard-MIT Health Science and Technology Program). Subsequently, he has served on the faculty of Harvard University, M.I.T. and the University of Chicago where he has had the privilege of supporting many students, fellows and surgery residents.

Dr. Lee’s academic interests have focused on characterizing the biophysics of cell structural damage caused by physical forces, ionizing irradiation and thermal trauma. In his early career, after identifying the central pathophysiological role of plasmalemma membrane disruption in trauma mediated tissue injury, Dr. Lee reported clinically applicable methods to catalyze sealing of disrupted cell membranes by the use of interfacial tension reducing surfactants. This has led to in a now widely validated class of trauma therapeutics that preserve tissue viability following lethal injury. This research has been extended to develop agents that inhibit aggregation and catalyze refolding of denatured proteins. Dr. Lee is also credited with discovering the use of organic calcium channel blockers for upregulating matrix metalloprotease biosynthesis in connective tissue fibroblasts which is now an accepted therapy for fibrotic conditions and scars. He and surgical residents developed and described obturator sensate fasciocutaneous flaps for congenital and acquired perineal deformities.

Dr. Lee’s research has resulted in new therapeutics which translated into establishment of three biotechnology companies. He chaired the University of Chicago president’s advisory committee for technology transfer and commercialization. He is now promoting strategies recruiting support to establish technology companies in economically undeveloped communities. He directed WHO sub-committee to estimate the health economic impact of Chernobyl on the Republic of Belarus. In 1999, he received an honorary DSc degree from the University of South Carolina for ionizing radiation hazard studies. Dr. Lee now serves on the American College of Surgeon’s Operation Giving Back, a program to augment surgical training in developing nations.

Dr. Lee is a 1978 American College of Surgeons Schering Scholar, 1981 MacArthur Fellow and a 1985 Searle Scholar. Notable awards include the 1989 James Barrett Brown Award from the American Association of Plastic Surgeons for “Advancing Knowledge in the field of Plastic Surgery”. In 1997 he was awarded the American Electrical Power Association Award for “Advancing Electrical Safety and Health”. He was listed among “America’s brightest Scientists under the age of 40” listed by Science Digest and was appointed a Senior Clinical Scholar of the Bucksbaum Institute (University of Chicago) in 2016. He has been elected to Fellowship in the Institute of Medicine (Chicago), Biomedical Engineering Society, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, American Association of Plastic Surgeons, Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, American Surgical Association, and American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering (USA) and the International Academy of Medical and Biological Engineering. Dr. Lee has been named “distinguished alumnus” by three universities. Dr. Lee is consistently listed as a leading surgeon and physician by national and local organizations and publications.

Dr. Lee has served as President of: The Society for Physical Regulation in Biology and Medicine; the Drexel 100; The Quadrangle Club; Midwestern Association of Plastic Surgeons, and American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. He is a Trustee of Drexel University and serves on the board of several corporations. He has authored and co-authored more than 240 publications, co-edited 4 books and more than 16 patents.