By Rudy Arispe ’97 BA
While doing his internship at Brooke Army Medical Center, Dr. Clarence Marcus Lee, Jr. ’04 BS wanted to help at-risk students from underprivileged backgrounds stay in school and reach for the stars.
So he asked his colleagues where he might start. They suggested he look into Sam Houston High School on San Antonio’s East Side.
“I just wanted to reach out to guys who were like me when I was growing up,” the 32-year-old Air Force captain and flight surgeon said during a phone conversation from his home in Lincoln, Calif., a suburb of Sacramento, some 40 miles north of Beale AFB where he’s stationed.
“I tracked down the president of the school board and told him my idea. He set up a meeting with the principal of Sam Houston and I presented the mentor model and curriculum I created. Then I met the basketball coach, and we started scheduling an hour a week for me to spend time with the guys.”
One of those young men was Isaac Thornton, 19, who plays guard for the men’s basketball team at San Jose State University in California. He fondly recalls the impact that Lee has had on his life.
“One of the biggest things he taught us was “E” plus “R” equals “O,” or event plus response equals outcome,” Thornton said. “It’s about controlling what happens in your life. You are in charge of the outcome.”
“Before, I used to let little things get to me and ruin my day. Now as a person or on the basketball court, when something happens I don’t dwell on it. Let it go. Focus on the things you can control and make those changes for a better outcome.”
Today, Lee continues to have a positive impact on others by offering words of wisdom and other insightful advice that he shares when he’s not busy with his military career in aerospace medicine, but as a life coach, motivational speaker, entrepreneur and now writer through his upcoming book, “Well, My Mom Says …” to be published in May.
In it, the author devotes each chapter to a conversation he had with his mother, Ruffina Rector, a registered nurse, and the lessons learned from her while growing up in Kansas City, Mo.
“I want readers to come away seeing struggles for what they truly are – God-given opportunities for growth that uniquely position you to help others at similar crossroads in their life,” he said. “I cover a huge span of time from childhood to adulthood, and an array of situations like racial discrimination, failure in school, failure on the basketball court, failure in my first marriage, as well as a near death experience.”
While playing basketball on a scholarship for UIW from 2001-2003 and earning a degree in biology, Lee decided his junior year he wanted to become a physician and joined the Air Force Reserves after graduation.
Lee began medical school at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia and completed his internship in general surgery at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. While training in general surgery, the Air Force was offering physicians the opportunity to be flight surgeons. “I couldn’t turn down the chance to fly,” he said.
As a flight surgeon, Lee is responsible for the medical evaluation and treatment of pilots. “We are the physicians who certify pilots to be able to fly,” he said, adding that although he’s not a pilot he has more than 100 flying hours aboard various military aircraft.
Although he enjoys a fulfilling Air Force career, Lee said he has always believed he was destined to help and empower others.
“Once I finished medical school, I started seeing the disparities in health care,” he said. “I realized I could prescribe someone a pill to make them feel better. But I also saw patients who didn’t have the mental motivation to take that pill or they had no will to live. I knew I wanted to help people change their life for the better.”
Realizing he wanted to help other people outside of the military, he launched his self-help company, CMLEEJR, in 2010. In conjunction with that, he is working on his MBA in entrepreneurship at Drexel University Lebow College of Business in Sacramento and plans to graduate in September.
He credits his time at UIW for preparing him for a successful career in the military and civilian world as an entrepreneur, which included having the support to succeed by the number of people he met on campus.
“Everyone from Dr. Agnese to professors and even alumni were so supportive of me,” Lee recalled. “They would show up at basketball games and were always visible on campus.”
And one of the most important skills he acquired was time management. “Playing sports was a full day,” he said. “We’d run in the morning, go to class, practice, watch films (of previous games) and travel. So I had to figure out how to manage my time, and that’s key to success when you’re in medical school.”
The author-speaker-physician recalled his youth growing up while being raised by his mother, a single parent, in Missouri. It was partly because of her that he chose to pursue a career in medicine.
“I remember her always working hard to provide for my sister and me. She worked three jobs sometimes,” Lee said. “When she decided to go to nursing school, I got to help her study and later, when I was older, I would sometimes go with her to the hospital.”
And as far as the best advice his mother ever gave him? “All things work together for the good,” he said. “It has been something I take with me every day, and I keep it in mind when things aren’t going my way. I tell myself, ‘For some reason I’m going through this struggle, and it’s all going to work out for the greater good.’ ”
“Every parent looks forward to the investment in their child,” Ruffina said. “I’m proud of him and his way of giving back to the community.”
To contact Dr. Lee or for more information, visit www.cmleejr.com A signed copy of his recent book can be purchased at http://mkt.com/cmleejr-co-llc/we-ll-my-mom-says-signed-softcover