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Seung Duk Lee, MD, PhD

Seung Duk Lee, MD, PhD

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Transplant Surgery




VCU Medical Center Gateway Building

1200 E. Marshall Street
Richmond, VA 23219
Get Directions

Stony Point 9109

9109 Stony Point Drive
Richmond, VA 23235
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Medical School

Seoul National University


Seoul National University


Seoul National University Hospital


National Cancer Center, South Korea


University of Virginia Health System


Creating ‘a whole new life’ and ‘shining faces’ through transplantation

As a young boy, Dr. Seung Lee watched his mother suffer from severe arthritis. Right then, he decided “to be a doctor and cure the sick patient, like my mother.” After several successful surgeries, including hip joint replacements, his mom is healthy. “My motto is to treat patients like family members,” he says.

While his mother’s experiences shaped his vision for a medical career, Dr. Lee opted for a different specialty. Today, he’s a globally recognized leader in living-donor liver transplants and minimally invasive liver surgery, bringing pioneering work in laparoscopy and robotics.

“Transplantation is an amazing surgery,” Dr. Lee says, noting that this option can be transformational for select cases of liver, kidney or pancreatic diseases.

“This one-day surgery can create a whole new life,” he adds. “I’m always happy to see the face of my patient just one day after transplantation.”

“It is totally different. It looks like a shiny sun,” he says. “That is the most rewarding part of my job.”

To date, he has performed more than 200 living-donor transplants, plus 300 resections to treat liver cancer. Much of his training and early practice took place at the National Cancer Institute in South Korea, where he was head researcher and faculty member.

“As a surgeon, I know that patients need that cure: to be free of disease after surgery,” Dr. Lee says. “Surgery and transplantation can make that happen for many patients. And when it doesn’t, we can discuss other treatment options with specialists in other areas.”

Dr. Lee regularly treats patients with liver disease, including chronic cirrhosis due to hepatitis, injury, cancer and benign tumors. He encourages patients not to lose courage, as his team can manage the countless ways that liver disease and tumors present themselves.

Still, he acknowledges that transplantation surgery is a rare specialty requiring unique training to maintain patient safety. That’s one reason he’s working to develop new surgical techniques that aren’t as invasive. For example, removing a portion of a living donor’s liver once required a lengthy abdominal incision. Today’s laparoscopic and robotic approaches – which can be completed via smaller incisions – can shorten recovery and ease cosmetic concerns.

In his early career, Dr. Lee studied liver regeneration and liver cancer treatment with new surgical techniques. His doctoral degree investigated new drugs that enhance liver regeneration after liver resection or transplantation. He also is conducting research on photodynamic therapy, which introduces light as a treatment tool for liver cancer.

Outside the hospital, Dr. Lee spends time with his wife and their three children. He enjoys taking his kids fishing and climbing.

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