Cortney Y. Lee, MD, FACS, is a surgeon at UK HealthCare with advanced training in endocrine surgery. She has special expertise in thyroid, parathyroid and adrenal surgery. Dr. Lee took some time to chat with us about the glands you might not even know you have as well as the peace of mind she’s after for her patients.
What is special about the care you and your fellow endocrine surgeons provide at UK HealthCare?
The nice thing with our practice in thyroid nodules is that my partners and I, we all do our own ultrasound and fine needle aspiration (which is another word for biopsy) in the clinic. Our cytopathologists are fellowship trained in that. They're very experienced with thyroid, because we do a lot of that. They come over to the clinic while we're doing the biopsy, so they can tell us what they think right away. And that one-stop-shop approach really helps our patient population. A lot of our patients travel from hours and hours away. And if we can try to do as much of that during that initial visit and come up with a plan, I think that puts people at ease.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The patients are definitely the most rewarding. Being able to take a patient that has a problem and fix that problem, seeing them come back to clinic and feel better – whether you're taking out cancer and you're seeing the peace of mind afterwards, or whether you're taking out a big symptomatic nodule or goiter and the patient's like, “I can swallow better, I can breathe better, I didn't know it was bothering me that badly!”
Tell us about a patient experience that sticks with you.
I had a patient several years ago that came back after parathyroid surgery, and she had had [a positive outcome]. She felt bad beforehand, was feeling run down and fatigued and brain fog and whatever. And I said, “Well, most patients notice some improvement.”
She came back in a month. She was like, “Oh, Dr. Lee. I feel so much better. I used to not remember phone numbers. Now I can remember them,” and was going on and on. Her husband's sitting there. And he's like – finally, he's like, “Dr. Lee, can you take my parathyroid out too?” We wish it worked that way!
But it's really nice to take somebody that has a disease like that – parathyroid disease is bad on the bones and the kidneys, and can even be linked to some heart issues. So there's other reasons we do it. But the small one of making someone feel better with the outpatient sort of surgery – most of our surgeries are outpatient – it's nice. It's rewarding.
Watch our full interview with Dr. Lee.