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Lai-Yet Lam, MD '82, and Peter Lew, MS '83, PhD '83

Support from alumni Lai-Yet Lam, MD '82, and Peter Lew, MS '83, PhD '83, provides financial aid and professional development opportunities for students, residents, and fellows. PHOTO: Gale Zucker Photography

Longtime Supporters Enhance Learning Opportunities

Summer 2013

Lai-Yet Lam, MD '82, moved to California from Taiwan, via Hong Kong, with her family when she was 15, a stranger to the culture and language of her new home. Things got even more confusing when she moved across the country and attended Harlem High School in New York City.

"My best friend was an Irish girl from Georgia because we were the only ones who looked different," she remembers. "Though I had a strong educational background in Taiwan, I had to struggle and learned to appreciate whatever opportunities I could find."

Her husband, Peter Lew, MS '83, PhD '83, grew up in San Francisco and remained drawn to the semiconductor research taking place in Silicon Valley. The couple met while living in the same dorm and married five years later, after Lam started her residency in New York. He took a job at IBM after completing his degree in materials science and engineering, and she established her practice in obstetrics/gynecology.

For the past 30 years they have been loyal contributors to the Stanford Med Fund, which provides financial aid and professional development opportunities for students, residents, fellows, and postdoctoral students. They are also longtime supporters of bipolar researchers in the medical school as well as the university's Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), a service dedicated to student mental health and well-being. It's a plus that their gifts are matched by IBM—helping their support go further.

"We both benefited greatly from our experience at Stanford and wanted to help ensure that students have every opportunity, at every level," says Lew, adding that there is a history of bipolar disorder in Lam's family. "More than one in 10 people are affected by mental illness, and it is so often misunderstood. It's a huge health issue. We thought that this was a meaningful way to provide a support network to people in need."

Lam's memories of Stanford reflect back on her professors' emphasis on clinical skills. "Medicine requires a lot of heart as well as technical expertise. I had great teachers and mentors who taught me the human side of being a doctor and how to interact with patients," she says. "They gave me my clinical skills as well as a bedside manner based on respect. That balance is so important, and we wanted to do our part to pass those skills along so that students learn how to become good doctors."

Lam recently went back to her Harlem roots, teaching young physicians at Harlem Hospital Center the fine points of pelvic reconstructive surgery. "It's an underserved area and greatly in need of my specialty," she says, adding that she is filling a niche that has been empty for the past 10 years. "I want to pass along what I learned to the next generation."