Goodbye Dear Friend: Honoring Celeste Castillo Lee

Celeste and Daniel Lee

It is with great sadness that we share the news that Celeste Castillo Lee passed away Feb. 9, 2017. Celeste served as Michigan Medicine’s first PFCC Program Manager for Adult Services. Under her leadership, PFCC’s mission grew to encompass University Hospital, the Frankel Cardiovascular Center, Comprehensive Cancer Center and Ambulatory Services.

Celeste was 51 when she passed, after surviving more than 30 years of kidney failure brought on by the autoimmune disease vasculitis and having undergone peritoneal dialysis and hemodialysis and a kidney transplant.

Many of our advisors, peer mentors and staff will remember Celeste for her incredible perseverance and her ability to utilize her compassion for the good. Alongside our advisors, and in partnership with staff, Celeste worked tirelessly to imbed PFCC best practices and initiatives throughout Michigan Medicine.

Celeste was integral in growing the volunteer advisory and peer mentor program from the time she started working at Michigan Medicine with a couple dozen advisors in 2012 to nearly 200 advisors when she stepped down in 2015. During her tenure, she helped start Patient Family Advisory Committees for University Hospital, Dexter Clinic, Rad/Onc and West Ann Arbor Clinic.

In addition to her role at Michigan Medicine, Celeste served as a faculty member at the Institute for Patient and Family Centered Care, board member and chair of the Patient and Family Partnership Council for the Kidney Health Initiative, and a member of the Phase I National Patient Advisory Council for PCORnet. Here is an interview on Celeste’s work and wisdom on PFCC: Celeste Lee on the Power of Patient Engagement.

Earlier this year, Celeste was awarded the American Association of Kidney Patients Medal of Excellence for her contributions. The American Society of Nephrology (ASN) has created the Celeste Castillo Lee Endowed Lectureship. Held annually during Kidney Week, the Celeste Castillo Lee Endowed Lectureship will provide an opportunity to recognize the patient as an integral member of the research and clinical team. The Michigan Medicine PFCC Program has established the Celeste Castillo Lee Peer Mentoring Award, to be given annually to two peer mentors. Finally, the Kidney Health Initiative created a tribute video in Celeste’s memory which can be viewed here.

In addition to her 35 years of work in patient advocacy, Celeste will be remembered for her contagious laughter, welcoming smile, and inspirational ideas. Our program has adopted one of Celeste’s favorite quotes as its mantra – these wise words of Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

By Melissa Cunningham, Volunteer Coordinator


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