Q&A - M. Mimi Lee, MD, FACS, RVT

University of Florida for undergrad (Go Gators!). University of Miami for medical school and surgical residency.
Currently in practice in Little Rock, Arkansas.

What made you decide to work in phlebology and what do you wish you had known before you did?
Much of my destiny was related to my husband, Dr. Gene Sloan, who is a board certified plastic surgeon. I started my general surgery practice as a solo practitioner just like him and I learned a lot through my husband’s experience since he is several years ahead of me. During the late 90’s and early 2000’s, not many doctors were interested in vein treatments, but it kept me busy as a new doctor in town. I was doing vein stripping, sclerotherapy, and then progressed to transilluminated phlebectomy when it was first available. I then became the first physician to perform endovenous ablation in Arkansas in 2002. Eventually I become the vein doctor in town through word of mouth.

I love what I do everyday as a phlebologist and have no regrets. As the first to perform endovenous ablation in Arkansas, I did have a lot of obstacles to overcome - from getting the hospital to purchase the necessary expensive equipment, to getting local insurance carriers to recognize the procedure efficacy in order to approve the treatment for coverage. Back in 2002, there was not even a CPT code for endovenous ablation. I was able to meet with the medical directors-administrators of national and local insurance carriers to get ablation covered. In 2005, after doing ablation for 3 years, I decided to become a full time phlebologist. It was a hard decision giving up general surgery practice feeling like I would not be able to go back once I became known as a phlebologist to my referring doctors.

What is it about your practice that sets it apart from others? Why should a patient visit your practice?
My practice is committed to delivering the best patient care. I make them feel welcome and listen to their concerns and take the time to explain their disease process and possible treatment options. Aside from the compassionate care, I am also the most experienced in the minimally invasive vein treatments in the state, which allows me to achieve good outcome. We value feedback from our patients and we have a suggestion box in the clinic and we also ask patients to complete a satisfaction questionnaire at their post-op visits.

What makes your staff special? Does your staff have any special training?
My staff is literally cherry picked to be the best. They understand my philosophy listed above and I encourage them to think of ways to make patients feel special and welcome. For example, if a new patient is traveling several hours to us, they will make sure to consider setting additional time to do an ultrasound, if I deem it necessary. I make sure my staff is knowledgeable in venous disease and treatments. Because I was the “vein pioneer” in my state, there was no experienced staff in this field to hire, so I have been able to train all of them. They all have seen my slide presentation of venous disease and many have also attended ACP meetings including the ultrasound course and marketing and/or visited other successful phlebology offices in other parts of the country. I am familiar with all aspects of my practice including the patient intake forms, individual insurance policy coverage, ultrasound usage and interpretation, coding, interpreting EOB for payment trends, supply costs/efficiency and marketing, in addition to the direct patient clinical care.

Which procedures do you offer/specialize in?
Endovenous ablation (with radio frequency, i.e. closure), sclerotherapy, ultrasound, transilluminated phlebectomy.

What technological advances are contributing to the quality of vein treatment that most excite you?
Endovenous ablation has been a remarkable advance that is replacing traditional vein stripping. Having performed many vein stripping procedures, I feel that ablation is superior in every aspect including recovery, cosmetic, long term success and outcome. I often offer this less invasive treatment to our elderly since it is so gentle and many elderly would not have tolerated vein stripping and cannot put on stockings due to arthritis.

What is/are the biggest challenge(s) in your work?
Working with insurance. In older days, it would be getting coverage since there was no coverage policy for ablation until 2004-2005.

I can train my staff but I cannot train the insurance companies’ staff. I make sure all ablation patients meet the various medical necessity criteria with each of their individual insurance policies by being familiar with each individual’s coverage. I like to make sure patients get an accurate quote of cost and my staff is dedicated to doing this, but it still depends on what their insurance tells us and their accuracy with the quote.

What is something about you that would surprise your colleagues?
I am a Gator and a Hurricane and a Dallas Cowboy fan. My husband’s cousin is married to the Dallas Cowboy owner, so we got engaged at Texas Stadium. I am fluent in Chinese and can speak some Spanish, which I enjoy speaking to those occasional Hispanic patients in Arkansas. I was an engineer major but changed to medicine because I did not like physics and like working with people. Ironically I am now a RVT and RVPI and had to know all those physics to get the credential.