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《Remembering LEE WaiNang》 __ Paul Lee (62)

LEE WaiNang

WaiNang’s brother wrote an article on their four brothers. It is a remarkable journey of a family that held on together in spite of great hardship. I will try to fill out some aspects of his life at Wah Yan and his accomplishments.

I think WaiNang joined our ’62 class at Form 3. He had always shown interest in biology. During our lunch break, while we would amuse ourselves with various pursuits, WaiNang would seek out the Wah Yan gardeners at the back of the school auditorium and questioned them about plants. He was able to put this knowledge to good use when he planted all sorts of vegetation at his Palos Verdes home. He brought us a very fragrant Gardenia which survived our haphazard care for many years.

At Wah Yan we would sometimes go on outings. I remember one time a group of us went to the Big Clear Water Bay. There was a big gap on our path with a deep gorge in between. We took turn jumping over this gap. Looking back on it now, it was a pretty reckless act. WaiNang did not follow suit. Instead he clambered up around the gap, showing his innate caution and ability to act against group pressure.

After Lower 6, he entered UC Berkeley in 1963. I went to the US one year later and was greeted by the friendly contingent of ‘62ers: Vincent, WaiNang, Andrew Fong, Jerome Shih. It is indeed sobering to see that the last three have passed away. They showed me the UC campus and life at an American university. After three years, WaiNang graduated with a BA degree in Biochemistry and entered medical school at Stanford, no easy feat for a foreign student. Around this time, we had an exchange of letters about the philosophy of Wittgenstein over several months. I am sure now what we had said to each other was basically nonsensical but in our youthful arrogance, we thought we could figure out anything.

After getting his MD degree in 1971, he completed his pediatric internship at Cleveland. He did not like living in that city and was happy to return to California and did his residency at USC. He moved on to UCLA to complete a two-year Fellowship in Pediatric Endocrinology and became Assistant Professor of Pediatrics. In 1986 to further his management skill, he completed his MBA program at California State University, Northridge, my academic home for almost forty years.

Here is an except from his CV: Dr. Lee received his initial training in mass spectrometry in 1978, from Dr. Daniel Knapp during a NIH NCRR fellowship. Dr. Lee is a pioneer in developing the use of the least squares approach to the quantitation of stable isotopes in mass spectrometry. The method was later adopted for mass isotopomer distribution analysis. In collaboration with Dr. Joseph Katz who was a pioneer in the application of tracers in metabolic studies, Dr. Lee published extensively on the use of mass and positional mass isotopomer to trace metabolic pathways, which has evolved into the field of metabolomics as we know it today. From 1993-1996, Dr. Lee was a member of the Metabolism Study Section of the Scientific Review Branch of the NIH. Dr. Lee has received numerous research and fellowship training grants, has published many seminal articles on the use of stable isotopes in metabolic research. Dr. Lee has been the Director of Stable Isotope Research Laboratory since 1986. His laboratory currently utilizes Agilent GC/MS, ABI5000 LC/MS/MS and LCQdeca for metabolite analysis. Through his research, Dr. Lee has gained unique understanding of cellular metabolism especially in the area of determining metabolic phenotypes in cells. Dr. Lee continues to serve on many committees within the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center community. He is Board Certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and regarded as an expert in the field of Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes.

He had a distinguished career and retired from UCLA medical school two years ago.

There are a group of ‘62ers in Los Angeles and a smaller group in Orange County. Starting in the ‘80s, we would gather together for meals, many times at the restaurant run by Dunson’s family. WaiNang and Dorline would regularly join us. During the Wah Yan international conference at Los Angeles organized by Albert, WaiNang volunteered to drive participants in his van. I think that was in year 2000. But soon after that, WaiNang were mostly absent. When out of town classmates came and I tried to call him up, he would usually not be able to come. Only later did I learned that Dorline has been sick and WaiNang had to care for her and his freedom was severely limited. Another problem was that he did not want to drive at night. So we tried to have lunch instead. After the WY International conference at SF last year, the director of the Ricci Institute came down and Dunson hosted a lunch at the San Gabriel golf club. I was surprised to see WaiNang there. He was in good health and good spirit. That was I last time I saw him.

According to his brother WaiHon, WaiNang noticed in May this year that he could not take in solid food. Then doctor discovered late stage pancreatic cancer. He knew that this was incurable. He died four weeks later in a hospice.

WaiNang did not share his final illness with anyone we know. Perhaps he did not want to burden us with the news. Or perhaps he had learned the lesson from Wittgenstein well. In “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus,” the book ends with Proposition 7:
“Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”

Note added by Dominic Lee

One thing that I remember about Wai Nang is that the Great Leap Forward (大躍進) was at its climax when we were in Form 4 or 5. The newspaper reported a lot of dead bodies flowing down from the Pearl River. Wai Nang suggested to me to organize a tour to China to bring daily necessities, including rice, cooking oil, clothing... I thought this was a bit unrealistic, given the fact that we still need to attend school, and our limited ability in finance. So, I did not respond positively to this request. Anyway, I appreciated very much his kind-heart and love for the country.

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