Marshala Lee, M.D., MPH, Honored by National Medical Association for Work Toward Health Equity and Justice
The National Medical Association (NMA) has named ChristianaCare physician-scholar Marshala Lee, M.D., MPH, among its Top 40 Health Professionals Under 40.
Lee is the Harrington Trust Physician Scholar and director of the Harrington Trust through ChristianaCare’s Institute on Research Equity and Community Health, known as iREACH. The award is the latest for Lee’s career achievements and volunteer service to community partnership efforts in health equity and justice.
For innovative health care initiatives during the COVID-19 pandemic Lee also received an NMA Young Physician Award; a Brown Medical School Junior Alumni Award for Excellence in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; and a Harlem Fine Arts African Americans in Medicine award.
Lee also was named Citizen of the Year by Gamma Mu Nu Omega Psi Phi fraternity and an honoree in Delaware Business Times 40 Under 4o in 2021.
The awards reflect Lee’s passion for service and commitment to community outreach.
What started as a partnership with barbers and hair stylists to address high blood pressure in underserved communities quickly pivoted to educate and improve access to personal protective equipment and COVID-19 vaccines during the pandemic.
“I figured out early on that even if I was the best doctor, I would need to help dismantle the many barriers to health care for the people I treat,” Lee said. “To address health needs beyond the clinical wall, I knew I would need to find innovative ways to serve.”
Advancing health equity
Through her role with the Harrington Trust, Lee supports efforts to strengthen community partnerships and develops new models of patient-centered health care that address the social determinants of health in disadvantaged populations. She also mentors trainees from underrepresented backgrounds in medicine.
‘To address health needs beyond the clinical wall, I knew I would need to find innovative ways to serve.’
— Marshala Lee, M.D., MPH
Active in her alma maters, she serves on Brown University’s Advisory Council on Diversity and the University’s Advisory Council on Relations with Tougaloo College. She is a member of the Wilmington Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.’s Physical and Mental Health Committee; a health contributor for the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League; and a Communities in Schools Delaware board member.
She is the young physician coordinator for Region 2 and president of the First State Chapter of the NMA, the national professional organization serving as the collective voice of African American physicians and the leading force for parity and justice in medicine and the elimination of health disparities.
Inspiring the doctors and nurses of the future
One of Lee’s greatest passions is mentoring the underrepresented physician workforce. She is family medicine physician and serves on the Community Medicine faculty for the highly regarded Department of Family & Community Medicine at ChristianaCare.
“I know the importance of mentoring,” she said. “I’m still benefitting from having great mentors in my life.”
She leads physician workforce diversity training programs and advanced a Harrington Trust-supported program that has expanded to help 20 Delaware students from underserved backgrounds prepare for the Medical College Admissions Test and apply to medical school.
She mentors minority associations of pre-med students and other health care career interest groups through the University of Delaware and Delaware State University.
She’s also inspiring young children to dream about a career in medicine through her work with the K-2 Shortlidge Academy in Wilmington, one of the school-based health centers ChristianaCare operates in the community.
“We know that many health conditions and behaviors start early, so to be able to identify challenges and assist families with resources for health management in elementary school is so very important,” Lee said.
“Nine out of 10 children I meet tell me they want to be a doctor or a nurse when they grow up,” she said. “Being able to inspire them at an early age and allow them to see someone who looks like them – I hope it makes a difference in their career aspirations.”
Doctor and community liaison
Lee earned a medical degree with a concentration in advocacy and activism from Brown Medical School and completed family medicine residency training at the University of Maryland Medical Center. She was selected as a Commonwealth Fund Fellow in Minority Health Policy and obtained a Master of Public Health with a concentration in health care management and policy from Harvard University.
“My training taught me to be a good doctor, and a great community liaison,” she said.
Earlier in her career, Lee helped shape national policy through the Health Resources and Services Administration and the Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education Payment Program that supports residency training programs in community health centers.
But it was the opportunity to apply her advocacy and policy skills through personal service in the community via the Harrington Community Partnership Fund that led Lee to Delaware.
“ChristianaCare is not only the clinical leader for the region, but is caring for our neighbors with love through many initiatives that address social determinants of health,” she said.
“We’re all working collaboratively to discover innovative ways to improve the health care status of our community members and meet their needs in as many capacities as possible.”