Who's Who

HomeATS CommunityWho's Who ▶ Janet Lee, MD, ATSF
Janet Lee, MD, ATSF


  • Give us your ‘elevator pitch’ biography.

I am Professor of Medicine and Director of the Acute Lung Injury Center of Excellence in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. My research focuses on pulmonary host defense and molecular pathogenesis of lung injury. I study host-pathogen interactions to better understand the basis of an effective host immune response in mucosal sites such as the lower respiratory tract and during systemic inflammation. My clinical interests focus on critical illness syndromes such as ARDS and sepsis. I joined ATS in 2000 as a pulmonary fellow and the ATS has been my professional society and home ever since. Through engagement within the ATS, I have had the pleasure to meet colleagues of diverse backgrounds, clinical interests, and scientific expertise and this has provided great value in my professional life.


  • What would you tell yourself as an Early Career Professional?

When I was growing up, my mother once told me to ‘bend like the reed in the wind’. What she meant was to be flexible, adaptable to a constantly changing environment yet stay grounded or firmly rooted. This is the advice I would tell myself as an Early Career Professional. It has helped me to follow through with not only short-term goals but also maintain a long-term perspective and to enjoy the journey.


  • If you weren’t a doctor, and were in a different industry altogether, what would you be?

A literary or art critic, or professor of literature. I went to a gallery earlier this year and thought I would enjoy being the person who writes the gallery texts or panels seen in art museums. How wonderful it would be to study, research, interpret the works of great artists and compel others. I also enjoy teaching and receive tremendous satisfaction when I see students grasp a concept clearly, get excited about an idea, develop mastery regarding a topic, and harness their own creativity to address a question.


  • What is your favorite way to spend a day off?

Spend time with my family. I have a terrific spouse and two girls. Like many families, it is a constant challenge to find time together. The best times are those we spend together enjoying the visual or performing arts.


  • What areas of medicine are you most excited to see develop?

Biologics. Also, to harness the host immune system to combat cancer, autoimmunity and infectious diseases is an incredible human achievement.


  • What is one advancement in your field you’d like to see in your career?

To better understand host resilience following injury and critical illness. One advancement is to develop tools to probe the biology of host resilience following acute injury across the spectrum of lung diseases.

From a clinician’s perspective, I have often wondered about the factors that enable host resilience in some patients but not others. When my mother was a little girl, she lived in what is now present day North Korea. Just before the outbreak of the Korean war, and against incredible odds, she became the only survivor of typhoid fever in her family. She not only survived but, after her critical illness, was able to thrive. One advancement to the field is to provide this understanding to patients, and their families.


  • Ok. Which statement did you make up?

That I am the ‘iron chef’ in my household.  This title goes to my husband who is the master of spices and spontaneity.

Lee Family 2018