Dr. Lenora Lee is an infectious disease specialist at Kaiser Permanente. (Photo by Terence Duffy, mural artist unknown)

On the Rise: Dr. Lenora Lee

Meet 12 young professionals who are shaping their industries and the Capital Region

Back Article Jul 12, 2021 By Graham Womack

Dr. Lenora Lee

Infectious disease specialist, Kaiser Permanente

This story is part of our July 2021 Young Professionals issue. To subscribe, click here.

Dr. Lenora Lee, an infectious disease specialist at Kaiser Permanente Sacramento and Roseville for the past seven years, has made the most of working through the coronavirus pandemic. With activities like seeing patients in person, on video, and by phone and regularly posting information for the public on Facebook and Instagram, Lee has been drawing notice with her hard work, including  being named the 2020 Metro EDGE Young Professional of the Year for the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s annual business awards.

With COVID-19 case counts and deaths decreasing in the United States over the past few months as vaccines have become widely available, Lee, 40, says her work has been rewarding. “There’s been a mix of emotions, I would say. Now that things have calmed down and I can look back and we could say that as a specialty, we really helped lead Kaiser. … That has definitely been very rewarding.”

The work has been intense at times, such as the early, uncertain days of the pandemic in April 2020 and during a summer spike in cases in July 2020. She received 200 phone messages a day and also worked after hours participating in phone calls for all of Kaiser’s regional infectious disease specialists in Northern California.

She also began posting on her personal Facebook and Instagram accounts on social media after noticing confusion from friends, family and even coworkers about the coronavirus. “I really like helping people. … It seems very cliche, but it also demonstrates why I went into infectious diseases, which is all about helping colleagues and, obviously, our patients,” Lee says.

“I really like helping people. … It seems very cliche, but it also demonstrates why I went into infectious diseases, which is all about helping colleagues and, obviously, our patients.”

For Lee, a Sacramento native, working in the field of infectious diseases is something she was seemingly born to do: Lee’s father, Dr. Kenneth Lee, had a 32-year career in the same specialty for Kaiser Permanente in Sacramento and Roseville, retiring in 2011. After attending Cornell University to earn her bachelor’s degree in biology and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York for her M.D., Lee returned to the Capital Region to do her medical residency and fellowship at UC Davis School of Medicine. “It’s just been in my blood, I guess, since I was really young,” she says.

Lee is optimistic that the pandemic will eventually be controlled, though lagging vaccination rates and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s easing of mask-wearing requirements in public places have her worried about a summer spike in cases. In the meantime, she’ll keep fighting the good fight: “I think the silver lining is, during unprecedented times … you’re surrounded by great people that want to help and collaborate and come up with new processes and new plans.”

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