Q&A with Dr. Calvin Lee

How did I hear about the Modesto Marathon?

I was in between surgeries in late October when I bumped into Dr. Harvey Palitz, who told me about the Modesto Marathon, and he told me that they were looking for a title sponsor. He knew that my wife, Dr. Tammy Wu, and I had sponsored other organizations before such as the Modesto Symphony and the Gallo Center for the Arts. Other than that, we had not heard of the Modesto Marathon. I was away for about three months this summer. I was touring Asia on my violin playing in some of the great concert halls in the East. I don’t currently run or have running partners, and it had been about 10 years since I had been regularly running. I don’t think I would have heard about this sponsorship opportunity if it hadn’t been for the chance conversation with Dr. Palitz.

I was very excited to hear about the first Marathon in Modesto. I then shared the info with Dr. Tammy Wu, plastic surgeon, who had been an avid runner. We knew we wanted to help the cause. We really enjoy helping new projects in Modesto, such as the Gallo Center, and now the Modesto Marathon.

Why did we become the Title Sponsor?

Initially we didn’t want to be the title sponsor. But as time went by, the spot wasn’t filled. We decided we needed take some action and fill the spot ourselves. The main push came from Dr. Wu. Our medical group is called Surgical Artistry and much of it focuses on beauty. We are of the belief that true beauty comes from within – a healthy body. This is the goal of many plastic surgeons, such as New York City’s plastic surgeon, Dr. Joshua Hyman. We felt that the Marathon and Surgical Artistry had common goals when it came to healthy living. We also had many patients who have run marathons. Furthermore, on a humorous note, we thought there would be opportunities to look at leg veins of runners and perform acupuncture for leg/back pain caused by the race. Surgical Artistry provides services in veins, acupuncture, and plastic surgery.

About Dr.Calvin Lee…

I’m a general surgeon who specializes in acupuncture and vein procedures. I practice medicine with my wife, Dr. Tammy Wu, who is a plastic surgeon. Our practice is called Surgical Artistry and is located next to the post office on Sylvan Avenue in Modesto.

Before I became a surgeon and acupuncturist, I played a lot of violin. Recently I won a contest on YouTube to be part of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. We performed at Carnegie Hall with famed San Francisco Symphony conductor Michael Tilson Thomas. With my violin videos on YouTube, I was “discovered” and had the opportunity to play violin solos with physician orchestras in Taipei, Hong Kong, and Macau. I also enjoy learning piano, which is new for me.

Early life: I grew up in New York City. I started violin lessons at age seven. I had recognized early that I was very athletic with my fingers but not with anything else. This came in handy for typing, playing violin, and later for performing surgeries. While in high school, I was accepted to great universities such as Harvard and Stanford, and was even thinking about going to one of the best Caribbean medical schools, but chose to go to Brown University. At Brown, I majored in Neurosciences, and got my medical degree eight years later. It was a very thorough course where I learned everything from which coding to use to create medical bills, for example, learn more about 99203 and the treatment that represents, to how to open my own medical business. I came to Modesto in 2003 to work with the McHenry Medical Group as one of the Trauma / General Surgeons. I left the group in 2006 to start Surgical Artistry Inc. with my wife, and I also learned acupuncture at Stanford University. I love being active in the community. I am on the board of the Modesto Symphony and have been invited to be on the board of the Gallo Center. My wife and I are in the process of creating the Surgical Artistry Academy, which offers education to students in the area regarding medicine and aesthetics. We have already informally taught some students in the area.

About Dr. Tammy Wu

Dr. Wu is a busy plastic surgeon in Modesto, CA. She is the only woman plastic surgeon from Fresno to Sacramento. On the web she is considered to be an authority on breast augmentation surgery on runners. This has been the first website listed when searching for “Running and Breast Augmentation.” She graduated first in her medical school class at Brown University and has won plastic surgery research awards. She is on the board of directors for the Cooperation of American Physicians – a company headquartered in Los Angeles. The Cooperative of American Physicians, Inc. (CAP) is a physician-owned and governed organization comprised of the finest doctors practicing in the State of California. If you go to its website,https://www.cap-mpt.comyou will see her picture appear right after the CEO of the company. Membership in CAP is the gateway to Mutual Protection Trust (MPT). Available only to CAP members, MPT is a market leader in the California medical professional liability arena.

Early Life: Tammy Wu, grew up in Taipei Taiwan, and moved to the United States when she was 11 years old. Her parents remained in Taiwan while she learned English and went to boarding school in Atlanta, Ga. She spoke with a southern accent, learned enough French to be awarded second place in an all-USA French speaking competition. She went to Brown University for college and medical school. She majored in Biochemistry. She came to Modesto in 2003 to join the Sutter Gould Medical Group and was the only plastic surgeon for the group until she left in 2006 to start Surgical Artistry Inc. with her husband.

Running History

I started running during my surgery residency. The general surgery residency required many hours at work. Many times it was over 100 hours per week on the job. Running gave me a relief from the stress of surgical residency. I mainly got into running because my wife started running during residency. She was always better than me at running. In fact, she had won races in the past in her age group. I found it to be awkward for me, but I kept at it. A year after I started running, I ran my first marathon, which I finished in a little over 5 hours. To me, the marathon represented my surgical training – it was long – and the fact that I had finished it gave me confidence that I could finish my surgery training. A year later after the first marathon, I ran my second marathon, which took me almost 6 hours – I wasn’t conditioned at all for that race, but I wanted to do it regardless. I had fun racing the truck that said “end of race.” After 2002, both my wife and I had stopped running to focus on our medical practices. Because we have decided to sponsor this event, we’ve both taken up running again. Once again, I’m seeing that I am not genetically made for running, but it isn’t stopping me from watching myself improve again.

Why Half Marathon?

Maybe I’ll walk the Marathon … I reserve the right to change my mind at the last minute … I think I’ll look at the half-marathon marker and decide which direction to go when I get there. My wife thinks the half-marathon is barely the right distance to train for given the 17 weeks left before the event. She’s more realistic. I tend to aim for the stars but am happy if I get the moon at the end. Our Surgical Artistry staff is excited about the event and most plan to attend one of the races that day. I was already looking for ways to motivate myself to exercise again. Hearing about a chance to run in the first Modesto Marathon event was enough motivation to get going. I hope this inaugural event will motivate others as well. Whichever event we choose, it will be a 26.2 mile party because it is the first of its kind in Modesto.

Do you have any advice for others taking on the challenge?

It’s always good to take on a challenge, such as running the marathon. Even if we don’t conquer the challenge in the end, we may have improved ourselves tremendously while trying to reach that challenge.

I see two challenges for me with the Modesto Marathon: I want to run one of the races and I want to help make it as successful as possible.

Things that worked for me when I was training for my previous marathons:

  • Keep a running log
  • Rest is as important as running
  • Read running articles for motivation
  • Do one long run per week.

A simplified version of my current training plan:

Run every other day. If it is a weekday, run 3 miles. If it is a weekend, do a long run. The long run increases each time (i.e. Start at 4 miles, then next week go to 5 miles) until it’s Modesto Marathon time!

Throwdown a Challenge?

The marathon will be a draw for many people. It’s always nice to see Modesto on the map for good things. I hope to see over 2,000 runners on race day. And I want to thank the organizers and volunteers in advance. I’d like to challenge other sedentary types like myself to run/walk the marathon or half marathon. I can say with some certainty that if I can aim for this, many others can too. Plus it’s for a good cause – the Teens Run Modesto program. Couch lovers and runners should all come out for this event because it is history in the making – the inaugural Modesto Marathon.

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