Five Questions With: Dr. Woo Jin Lee

Pain expert Dr. Woo Jin Lee is one of University Orthopedics’ latest additions to its staff. Lee, a graduate of Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick, grew up in Rhode Island and returned to the Ocean State after completing a fellowship in pain medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and an anesthesiology residency at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Irving Medical Center. 

Lee sees patients at University Orthopedics’ Westerly location and performs surgery and procedures at the practice’s locations across the state. He discusses his approach to pain treatment and the impact pain relief can have on a patient. 

PBN: What are some of the methods you use to treat patients suffering from pain?   

LEE: There are various treatment methods, including injections, medications and rehabilitative therapies, that I utilize to treat pain. I often use a combination of these methods to formulate a treatment plan for each patient based on individual goals. The important aspect of treating pain is to take on a targeted approach: identify the source of the primary pain and target it with medications and injections. I then utilize rehabilitative therapies to prevent pain from recurring.

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PBN: Do you also use surgery as an option to manage pain?  

LEE: Yes. If the patient continues to suffer from pain despite my treatment plan, then I consult with an appropriate surgeon to determine if the patient is a surgical candidate. For spine pain, I may consider performing a spinal cord stimulator implant or vertebroplasty/kyphoplasty based on the cause of the patient’s pain.

PBN: Do any of the treatment methods you use result in recovery from chronic pain?  

LEE: There is no single treatment option that guarantees complete recovery from chronic pain. However, my treatment plan is designed to target pain in a multimodal fashion. By addressing different aspects of pain, my goal is to provide steady improvement for patients with chronic pain and maximize their odds of full recovery.

PBN: How much of an impact can proper pain treatment have on patients’ daily lives? 

LEE: The positive impact of proper pain treatment can be tremendous on a patient’s daily life. As chronic pain patients all know, living with pain on a daily basis can have a devastating impact on mood, sleep and function. To put it in perspective, chronic pain can make your favorite activity into a miserable one. The core element of pain management is to focus on improving the patient’s quality of life rather than just reducing pain scores alone. My job is to come up with a treatment plan that can positively impact patients’ lives so that they can live their best lives without pain.

PBN: What made you decide to join University Orthopedics after you completed a fellowship in pain medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital? 

LEE: After my training at MGH, my goal was to continue my career at an institution that holds quality of patient care and evidence-based medicine to the highest standard. I have found that similar to MGH, University Orthopedics is truly dedicated to providing the highest quality of orthopedic and pain care to the patients. As part of Brown University, we strive to be a world leader in medical research with application to patient care. To work for such an institution right here at home is the best job I could have hoped for!

Elizabeth Graham is a PBN contributing writer.