ABD Profile - Lela A. Lee, MD - Senior Executive Consultant

Meet the ABD Senior Executive Consultant
Lela A. Lee, MD


During more than three decades of service to the ABD, Lela Lee, M.D., has experience in nearly every aspect of certification – from item (question) writing, to communications, to exam development. Now, as Senior Executive Consultant, she provides additional consistency during the transition to a new executive leadership team.

During her tenure as ABD Associate Executive Director (2013-2021), she led the initiative to transform the ABD’s initial certifying examination, placing more emphasis on application of knowledge and clinical decision making. She initiated the practice of providing materials -- including study guides, content outlines, and sample items for the new exams -- to help examinees better anticipate the content on which they will be tested. With her considerable experience in item writing, editing, coding, and other aspects of exam development, Dr. Lee will work closely with Dr. Julie Schaffer, the ABD’s new Associate Executive Director for Exam Development to continue exam innovations. 

While Associate Executive Director, she was also active in continuing certification issues, serving for six years on the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) Committee on Continuing Certification.  Additionally, she was a member of the ABD’s Certifying Examination Item Writing Committee from 1993-1997, the Recertification Examination Item Writing Committee from 1996-1999, and the Board of Directors from 2001-2009. 

Lela grew up in Eastland, a small town in North Central Texas, graduating first of 42 in her high school class.  She graduated from Rice University cum laude in 1972, and from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in 1976, one of 14 women in a class of 140.  She completed an internal medicine residency at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, a dermatology residency at the University of Colorado, and an immunodermatology research fellowship at the University of Colorado.  She holds board certification in Internal Medicine and Dermatology. 

Following her fellowship, she became Assistant Professor of Dermatology and Medicine at the University of Colorado in 1985.  She left Colorado in 1991 to become Carl J. Herzog Professor of Dermatology at the University of Oklahoma and to work with the noted rheumatologist, Morris Reichlin, at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.  She returned to Colorado in 1997, where she took the position of chief of the dermatology service, Department of Medicine, at Denver Health Medical Center. Her academic appointment was professor of dermatology and medicine at the University of Colorado (CU) from 1997-2017. She became a clinical professor in 2017 when she changed her status to volunteer.  She served as associate program director of the CU dermatology residency program from 2013-2015.

She is the author of more than 100 peer-reviewed manuscripts and chapters, most of them concerning cutaneous lupus and neonatal lupus, her primary scholarly interests.  She was chief associate editor of the Journal of Investigative Dermatology (1990-1992), President of the Medical Dermatology Society (1998-1999), and Founding Member of the Rheumatologic Dermatology Society (2006-).  She was a winner of the Stelwagon Award and the William Reed Travelling Fellowship, a Fellow in the Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine Program, named the Outstanding Clinician of the Denver Health Medical Staff, and received the Distinguished Service Award from the ABD.   

Fun Facts about Dr. Lee

After her junior year in college, as she was preparing to apply to economics graduate school, Lela’s older brother convinced her that she might not find steady employment as a Ph.D. in economics, and encouraged her to go to medical school instead.  (He was probably right about the prospects in economics.) 

Lela met her husband, Norman Wikner, in the lobby of the Capitol Hilton during the 1983 annual meeting of the Society of Investigative Dermatology.  He was a dermatology resident in San Diego, and she was a resident in Colorado.  They have a daughter, Elena, who graduated from Williams College with a degree in math and teaches mathematics in the Boston area.  Norman was in dermatology private practice for many years and is now retired.

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Lela, Norman, and Elena share an interest in music.  In high school, Lela was offered a music scholarship to the University of Texas, based on her performance on the cornet at State Solo Contest.  Norman and Elena are choral singers. 

Lela, Norman, and Elena have hiked across England twice on the Coast-to-Coast route, about 200 miles across northern England from the Irish Sea to the North Sea. 

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Colorado is a pretty good place for hiking, too.  But in England, at the end of the day, instead of freeze-dried dinner and a sleeping bag in a tent, there’s a pub and a B&B.