Dr Andy Lee knew he wanted to be a doctor from the age of six. Suffering from eczema in his younger years, the son of fish and chip shop owners in the United Kingdom spent the majority of his childhood in three places: school, his parent’s shop, and his general practitioner’s surgery.
So while his school had already decided that Andy was destined for a future as a bank clerk, Dr Lee had other ideas.
“I found the GP’s surgery to be fascinating and very interesting. That’s when becoming a doctor became an idea of mine,” he says.
“I do find great satisfaction in helping people and there is no better kick in life than making a difference to someone else’s life for the better and that’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.”
Fast forward more than 20 years and not only has Dr Lee fulfilled his dream of becoming a doctor, but he has a swag of other qualifications to his name – not all of them medical.
While working as a general practitioner in the United Kingdom, Dr Lee was also registered as a wine consultant and he has recently completed a DJ course. He loves trance music – his favourite artist is Gareth Emery – and he plans to release his own music mixes online eventually.
“Releasing my own music mixes is definitely on my bucket list – I’ve always been curious about it and I’m halfway there, so I may as well finish the job,” he says.
A desire to show his three children where food comes from ultimately led to a keen interest in growing exotic fruit, the most of exotic of which is the cherry guava – a highly fragrant and intensely flavoured grape-sized fruit with a shelf life of only 24 hours.
Medically, Dr Lee has gained additional diplomas in Obstetrics and Gynaecology as well as Paediatrics. He also holds certification for both Implanon and Mirena insertions.
A keen interest in skin cancer has led to certification in Advanced Skin Cancer Medicine and Advanced Skin Cancer Surgery. Dr Lee is able to perform complex skin cancer surgery such as flaps, partial, and full thickness skin grafts.
Becoming a GP in Australia
Dr Lee and his wife first came to Australia in 1999, travelling here with a group of friends including a dietitian and a pharmacist when he first graduated as a general practitioner, lured by the promise of endless sunshine as portrayed in Australian television soap operas Neighbours and Home and Away that were very popular in the UK at the time.
While the friends stayed – and married Aussies – Dr Lee and his wife returned to the UK after six months. He eventually became the senior partner in a GP practice there and found himself working 14 to 16 hour days.
“It was unsustainable. I had three young children and I wasn’t seeing them during the week at all and barely on the weekends. I was miserable, moody, you name it, so we decided something had to change,” he says.
Dr Lee and his family are now all permanent residents and will apply for Australian citizenship in January.
Skin Cancer Treatment
A high point in Dr Lee’s medical career occurred in 2020 when he performed skin cancer surgery on a patient’s nose and ear because the patient was unable to access a plastic surgeon in hospital due to a lack of capacity resulting from COVID.
“It was a complex procedure and the hospital had given an ultimatum: get this done within two weeks if you can do it, otherwise we’ll need to do it,” Dr Lee says.
“It was a skin graft and it took really well and I was under pressure, but it healed beautifully and the patient was really happy and said he doesn’t ever want to go back to the hospital in future.”
Dr Lee explains that one reason for this is his use of a local anaesthetic that contains sodium bicarbonate, which reduces the sting of the medication when applied, and the fact that he has more time to inject it slowly.
“It makes the process less painful for the patient,” he says.
Mental Health Care
Mental health is another area of interest to Dr Lee.
“I enjoy being able to connect with people and being able to understand and empathise with what they’re going through and when I advise them, I know it makes a difference,” he says.
A lifelong learner who seeks information when curious about a topic, Dr Lee tells the story of his GP trainer who he describes as very inspirational. It is obvious from the way Dr Lee talks that his GP trainer greatly influenced Dr Lee’s career and his approach to medicine.
When he achieved the highest score amongst his local peers of 88% for his final General Practitioner exams, Dr Lee went to see his GP trainer, expecting high praise for his result. What happened was quite the opposite.
“His first words were: ‘What about the other 12%?’ He said: ‘This is medicine. You can’t afford to get it wrong for the 12%’ and you know what, that really grounded me,” Dr Lee says.
He now uses the same approach with any GPs that he helps to train.
“This is human lives we’re dealing with and we’ve got to do our best and not make any mistakes at all, so even though it was only 12%, that was 12% I should have got right.”
Why The Banyans Medical Centre?
Dr Lee decided to join The Banyans Medical Centre in Bowen Hills after viewing the plans for the purpose-built facilities and knowing it would contain the latest technology. He also recognised the comprehensive thought and consideration that had gone into selecting the right team members, which include experienced GPs, specialists, and allied health professionals.
That team is now hoping Dr Lee will share his DJ skills and samples of his exotic fruit at the staff Christmas party!
Dr Andy Lee MB, ChB, DRCOG, DCH, MRCGP, FRACGP