By David Jordan Jr
Dr. Maurice A. Lee has trekked a path to excellence with a focus, passion, and determination that is rare in many cases, yet common in achievers. Hailing from South Carolina, Dr. Lee was inspired as a child to pursue his interest in the world of medicine. He attended the Historically Black College South Carolina State University where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. Upon completion, he continued his studies on the doctoral level and earned his Doctorate of Pharmacy Degree from the Medical University of South Carolina and made history becoming the first Black pharmacist from Eutawville, South Carolina. An inspiration to pursue medicine that stemmed from a television show demonstrated the power of what one feeds into their mind, body, and soul. The irony for Dr. Lee is that he has been able to combine these passions as he has also been highly successful in the world of film and television as he is also an actor, producer, and author. The foundation for all of his pursuits and successes has been his education. Recently I had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Lee about how education has impacted his life.
David Jordan Jr: At what age did you realize the importance of education and the opportunities that it can provide you?
Dr. Maurice A. Lee: I was granted the opportunity to be the flag bearer for the fourth grade graduating class because of my grades. It was at this moment I learned the importance of education and the opportunities that could be provided with it. I believe I may have been eight or nine.
David Jordan Jr: What influences in your life; be it people, books, television/movies helped shape your mind and understand the importance of the mind and increasing knowledge?
Dr. Maurice A. Lee: My mother was very influential in shaping my mind. I always thought she was brilliant with how she moved throughout life. She taught me how to think and how to apply those thoughts to the everyday execution of my life. We even joke now about how much I act like her and the words I sometimes utter.
David Jordan Jr: You pursued and earned a degree in medicine, becoming a pharmacist. Not only did you become a pharmacist but you were the first black male pharmacist in your hometown of Eutawville, South Carolina. What led to your interest in medicine and becoming a pharmacist?
Dr. Maurice A. Lee: My interest in medicine was planted and nurtured due to ‘The Cosby Show’. The character of Heathcliff Huxtable showed me that as a young black boy, I too could become a doctor. It was at that moment I began to do my research on healthcare and the importance of it because healthcare providers are well respected and essential. There’s much joy each day knowing that I possess a pool of knowledge that helps to sustain the lives of others or increase their well-being.
David Jordan Jr: During your years as a student in both undergrad and post-grad, what was the best piece of advice you received from a professor or advisor that has stuck with you throughout your life?
Dr. Maurice A. Lee: The one piece of advice given unto me was to never give up. Not only did I hold onto that throughout my educational tenure, but I apply that invaluable piece of advice to every new endeavor I embark upon even when things do not look promising.
David Jordan Jr: You’ve achieved much success as not only a pharmacist but also as an actor, producer, writer and author. Each of those different fields have required you to not only learn about each respective field but to also put in the time necessary to perfect each of those crafts. What is your approach to learning?
Dr. Maurice A. Lee: My approach to learning falls into two categories based upon the respected field: Deep approach allows me to engage in an active process to reflect and integrate information in order to understand material being taught. Surface approach allows me to focus on trying to cope with the task assigned, and visualize the course as burden, therefore using the memorization of information.
David Jordan Jr: In 2006 you started the M.A. Lee Scholarship Fund. How has that scholarship fund helped the next generation in reaching their goals?
Dr. Maurice A. Lee: The M. A. Lee Scholarship Fund is an initiative I started to celebrate my thirtieth birthday. I used the funds from a birthday celebration to award scholarships to students entering a four-year college or university, but who were also faced with financial difficulties. Since the inception of the foundation, we have awarded over 100 scholarships. Our recipients have gone on to do amazing things globally and they all are working professionals from pharmacists, educators, lawyers, scientists, and accountants to name a few.
David Jordan Jr: You along with four other black pharmacists founded the Medical University’s College of Pharmacy PAAN Initiative. Tell us about this initiative and how it will impact pharmacy students at Medical University’s College of Pharmacy?
Dr. Maurice A. Lee: The MUSC College of Pharmacy launched PAAN to create a resource to provide leadership and support in addressing racial injustice. In the wake of the civil unrest ignited by the murder of George Floyd, the MUSC College of Pharmacy Dean Phillip Hall reaches out to myself and three other graduates of the College of Pharmacy to serve as founding members.
David Jordan Jr: Congratulations on the recently announced The Dr. M. A. Lee ’04 Endowment. Tell us about this endowment and your hopes for it changing lives.
Dr. Maurice A. Lee: Thank you! The Dr. M. A. Lee ’04 Endowed Diversity Scholarship was established to provide financial support to MUSC College of Pharmacy students who exhibit the same passion for the profession of pharmacy as myself and who have established themselves as leaders with a true desire to serve and help others.
David Jordan Jr: Given the current state of the world and the potential obstacles for students, what is advice would you give to high school and college students as they pursue their goals?
Dr. Maurice A. Lee: Considering all that we are facing during these times, my advice to high school and college students would be to stay focused and vigilant because there are many distractions being visualized to detour. Being conscious of what is actually transpiring and having an esurient desire to achieve their goals can also position them to see what’s wrong to work towards making things right.
Cover Photo Shot By Bobby Quillard