Learn the History of Our Practice
Dr. Joe Lee, a native of Grayson County, his wife Nadyne, and their three children, David, Merry Beth, and Mark returned to Leitchfield in July of 1976. Dr. Lee was educated at the University of Notre Dame and the University of Kentucky Medical School. He did his pediatric residency at Akron Children’s Hospital. Nadyne was educated at St. Mary’s College at Notre Dame. She did her nursing training at the University of Kentucky and received her Nurse Practitioner Training at Mount Saint Joseph’s College in Cincinnati.
The Lees moved to Leitchfield to fulfill Dr. Lee’s childhood dream of serving the people of Grayson County. When Dr. Lee began his practice, Grayson County War Memorial Hospital had only thirty-five beds. On his first day of practice, Dr. Lee discovered that the hospital had forgotten to order baby beds for his pediatric patients. He borrowed a crib from the First Baptist Church Nursery so that he could admit his first patient. Within a week, the hospital administrator, Russell Hackley, corrected the oversight.
Dr. Lee and Nadyne rented a large home and a small house across the street from the hospital. They lived in the large home and converted the small house into a pediatric office. Neither house was well insulated.
“When the wind blew outside the office, the curtains on the inside moved,” said Nadyne. “I hated to ask moms to undress their babies for the physical exam. I was afraid that if our little patients didn’t have pneumonia when they came in, they might have it when they left.”
“Before we opened the doors for our patients, we tried to remodel the little makeshift office to make it look as professional as possible,” said Dr. Lee. “We filled the chart racks with about 100 fake charts. We didn’t want our first patients to realize our inexperience when they saw the empty chart racks.”
On the first day of practice, the Lees saw seventeen patients. They charged $12 for a new patient and $10 for a follow-up visit.
“We made over $150 that first day and I thought our business would soon be able to support a family of five,” said Dr. Lee.
But they weren’t prepared for what was to come.
“The winter of 1977 was the worst time in our practice. Perhaps even the worst in our marriage,” said Nadyne. “That winter, an ice storm paralyzed Kentucky. Winter storms persisted until March. School was out for three months. No one could come to the doctor. We called in prescriptions for our patients and pharmacists delivered them in their four-wheel drive vehicles. But, regardless, we didn’t see patients for months. Our shaky income fell drastically.”
“Life in our poorly insulated home wasn’t much better. The kids lived in their snowsuits. When we breathed, we could see our breath and that was on the inside of our home. We ate breakfast with gloved hands and huddled around the fireplace until the living room warmed,” said Dr. Lee.
“Water pipes in the ceiling of the office broke and ruined much of the remodeling that we had done. In addition, the water ruined Joe’s medical school and residency diplomas. That broke my heart,” said Nadyne. “That winter, I was ready to abandon my Little House on the Prairie attitude and leave Leitchfield. I figured God didn’t have to hit me over the head with an icicle for me to get the point.”
Dr. Lee was resolved to stick it out. “I knew things had to get better. I was sure that once spring came, we would be back in business. I wasn’t ready to give up on the people of Grayson County,” said Dr. Lee
The Lees did stay and over the course of the past thirty-one years, they have treated tens of thousands of children.
Dr. Lee was in solo practice for seventeen years. After being on call 24/7 for seventeen years, he recognized that he couldn’t continue to go it alone. But the decision was a difficult one.
“Although I wanted more time to relax with my family, I felt a commitment to my patients,” said Dr. Lee. “It was hard for me to share my patients with another doctor. But I decided I’d wear out if I didn’t have some help. Since then, I have realized that it was the best decision I’ve ever made for myself, my family, and my practice. I now have terrific associates who not only share the responsibility, but share my commitment to high quality medical care for our patients. Drs. Evans, El-Masri, and Smith are talented, caring, board certified or board eligible pediatricians. I’m thrilled to be associated with them.”
Since the winter of 1977, many other things have changed. Grayson County War Memorial Hospital was rebuilt and renamed Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center. It is a seventy-five bed facility (with plenty of cribs for pediatric patients). Dr. Lee’s Office was renamed The Leitchfield Pediatric Clinic when it moved to its present location in the Kelly Medical Center. The Leitchfield Pediatric Clinic has grown from a staff of one pediatrician, one nurse and one secretary to a staff of twenty four, including five physicians. The office has changed from a drafty, remodeled old house to a state-of-the-art pediatric facility with two child-friendly reception areas and seventeen exam rooms.
The Lees are proud of their service to the children of Grayson and surrounding counties.
“We now have great-grand patients,” said Dr. Lee. “We saw their grandparents as teenagers, when we first came to town. Then, we saw their parents growing up. Now we see them. It is so satisfying to have that kind of continuity of care.”
“When we see families, we know their history. We know their struggles and their accomplishments. Its something many big city medical care providers will never experience,” said Nadyne.
“We look forward to a long future continuing what we have begun…excellent medical care for the children of Grayson County.”