When one Seattle woman was frustrated by a myriad of symptoms and problems that doctors ignored and questioned, she found trust, relief and treatment when she met Una Lee, MD, a urologist specializing in women’s health at Virginia Mason.
“She listened to me and made me feel very comfortable,” says the patient, who wishes to remain anonymous. “I had an unusual response to treatment, but Dr. Lee worked with me and made adjustments until we found something that worked. I don’t think most physicians would have been that caring and supportive.”
That’s why this patient recently gave a generous donation to support Dr. Lee’s work and research at Virginia Mason.
“She gave me amazing care, and I want to help make that care even better,” the patient says.
The story of women struggling to find quality care for urological issues is all too familiar for Dr. Lee. She decided to focus on helping women with conditions like urinary incontinence when she learned that few doctors specialize in this area.
“Female pelvic floor problems are a largely underserved area of medicine and research,” Dr. Lee says. “Problems with female urinary, pelvic, bowel and sexual function are common, but they’re also hard for some women to talk about. Often, women wait years to seek treatment for incontinence – and when they do, they’ll often leave appointments confused or not understanding their options.”
Hoping to break this cycle, Dr. Lee is both providing world-class treatment and leading research studies aimed at improving care. For example, she’s teaming up with Tom Wight, PhD, at the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason. They’re studying the extracellular matrix (the molecules surrounding cells that help them function) for clues about what causes urinary incontinence and how doctors can better target treatments.
Beyond the lab, Dr. Lee does collaborative research that looks at new approaches to women’s urology, which includes treating overactive bladder, urinary incontinence, urinary tract infections and more. She is also leading interviews and focus groups at Virginia Mason to learn more about patients’ needs in the surgical treatment of urinary incontinence. She hopes to improve the patient experience by publishing the findings and inspiring a deeper understanding of these issues.
“My goal is to ground research in the patients’ perspective, and then adapt the way we deliver care based on how they think and feel,” she says. “That way, we can give more women the care they need, focus on what matters to them, and improve their quality of life.”
For the women Dr. Lee serves, her patient-centered approach makes all the difference.
“Dr. Lee’s not just an experienced, skilled doctor – she’s a caring doctor,” the patient says. “I’m very grateful for the exceptional care she gave me, and I hope supporting Dr. Lee’s research helps make that care available to more people.”