Dr. Lee was born in 1927 and graduated as a medical doctor in 1952. He came to Terrace in 1956 and left three years later to obtain his Fellowship of the Royal College Canada F.R.C.S. (C), having already completed three years towards his surgeon's degree. In 1959 the Lee's returned to Terrace intending to stay two or three years but remained until 1987. Following their move to Victoria, Dr. Lee continued to practice full time for five years and an additional three years part time. In recognition of his dedication to the arts, the Dr. R.E.M. Lee Theatre in Terrace was also named in his honour.
Dr. Lee spoke about the medical situation at a 'going away' dinner held in 1987 to honour him and his wife. He advised that it was his dream to have a medical referral centre in the Pacific Northwest situated in Terrace as opposed to the current fragmented situation. By establishing such a centre, we would be able to attract more medical specialists and provide a better service to the community thus eliminating the need for patients to travel to the Vancouver for tertiary care. He discussed the changes in technology and the need for a CT scanner and stated there could be no modern medicine without it. Concerns raised by Dr. Lee for healthcare in the area along with the limitations of government funding, prompted a group of Terrace business owners to join together to address these concerns. They wanted to be in a position to upgrade some of the equipment in use at the hospital and add to new technology like the CT scanner.
They concluded that the best way to solicit and accept donations from people who could see the value of contributing toward improved health care would be through a hospital foundation. The foundation would help pay for approved items of equipment and projects in which the Ministry of Health and/or the Regional District would not fund. The Dr. R.E.M. Lee Hospital Foundation was formed as a nonprofit society dedicated to achieving a higher level of health care in the region and administered by a volunteer Board of Directors. It was registered as an Incorporation on February 11, 1988.
The first Board of Directors for The Dr. R.E.M. Lee Hospital Foundation were:
- David Lane, Chairman
- Norman Carelius, Secretary/Executive Director
- R. C. Sandover-Sly, Treasurer
- Clifford Bolton
- Dr Alex Enriquez
- Alan McAlpine
- William H. McRae
- Al Purschke
- Epp Talstra
- Rod Verstrate