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Math Alum Working to Improve Women’s Health Nationwide

Math Alum Working to Improve Women’s Health Nationwide

Nancy Lee, M.D., (Math, '71) is a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Health and Director of the Office on Women's Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In honor of National Women's Health Week, we talked to her about her journey from math student to national advocate for women's health.

Dr. Nancy Lee (Math, '71) is director of the U.S. Office of Women's Health.

Lee first came to The University of Texas at Austin in 1968 and, like many young students, she spent countless hours studying and chatting with friends on campus. She says those early experiences helped lead her to where she is today, with her time on the Forty Acres paving the way for work she does now in addressing comprehensive health care and services for women and girls.

"In my current role, I interpret lots of data, which is basically math," Lee notes. "I have very fond memories of my time on campus, and I loved UT. It is interesting to look back at that time and see how each chapter led me to where I am today."

Board certified in internal medicine, Lee has expansive knowledge in medicine that has been key to her work. She's participated in research projects in Africa, China, Central America and Southeast Asia and published more than 100 articles in scientific journals.

"I loved math and still do, but after graduation, I wanted to pursue medical school," she recalls. "It was during that time I discovered my passion for women's health."

Her focus has included cancer control, health coverage and women's preventive services, women's health across the lifespan, and violence against women. For example:

  • Working at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for two decades, she researched and led public health efforts focused on cancer screening, the epidemiology of cancers of the reproductive system, safety of contraceptive methods, and HIV infection among American women.
  • One of the biggest changes she has seen since coming to D.C. has been the expanded access to health insurance for millions of women and the improved coverage for those already insured through the Affordable Care Act. Lee has helped raise awareness about these innovations in her time with Health and Human Services.
  • For the last year, her office has been working on a grant program to improve the policies and systems around sexual assaults on campus, specifically preventive measures.The grants will be awarded later this summer.
  • Earlier this year, Lee was back on the UT Austin campus for an international symposium where health experts created recommendations for using social media to advance population and community health goals, including fighting the Zika virus.

National Women's Health Week, now in its 17th year, is another opportunity for Lee and her office to connect women across the country with steps they can take to improve their health.

"National Women's Health Week is always a reminder to take care of myself," says Dr. Lee. "As women, we tend to think about others before thinking about ourselves. It's important to put our health at the forefront."

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Saturday, 18 November 2017

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