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Wendy Klag Center for Autism & Developmental Disabilities

Dr. Li-Ching Lee

In Memoriam

Li-Ching LeeDr. Li-Ching Lee, a Johns Hopkins University epidemiologist who extensively researched psychiatric epidemiology and developmental disabilities, and most recently worked to increase awareness, diagnosis and monitoring of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), passed away from breast cancer on May 20, 2021, at the Johns Hopkins Hospitals. She was 54 years old. Dr. Lee was an exceptional researcher, mentor, instructor, and friend. Her work on ASD prevalence, measurement, and epidemiology made a huge impact on the field, addressing critical issues in the U.S. and across the globe, particularly in Taiwan, China, and Bangladesh. 

Dr. Lee was born in Taichung, Taiwan, and completed her undergraduate education at Kaohsiung Medical University. She received her Master of Science degree from the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 1997 and her PhD from the Department of Maternal and Child Health at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health in 2003. She returned to Baltimore and joined the Departments of Epidemiology and Mental Health, where she was able to pursue her emerging interests in ASD, maternal depression, and disability. She was named Associate Director for Global Autism Research in the School’s Wendy Klag Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities (WKC) in 2015 and also held a Research Scientist rank with the Kennedy Krieger Institute.

During her research career, she authored over 100 journal publications with colleagues and students around the world. Her work was featured in the JHSPH Public Health magazine’s Summer 2017 issue: “Li-Ching Lee Reaches Out”. She was the long-standing leader of the Maryland site of the national CDC ASD surveillance study, Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, responsible for new national autism prevalence reports every two years. She also led an NIH-funded R01 studying the impact of air quality on risk for ASD and neurodevelopmental disorders in China, working with other WKC members to develop and implement measurement, screening, and epidemiological analyses while also integrating genetic and epigenetic measures to understand risk. She was a fantastic co-investigator on the Study to Explore Early Development (SEED) another long-standing national epidemiologic study run through the Center, where she led multiple data analyses, as well as data quality control and data acquisition with our community partners at the Maryland State Department of Education and the Maryland Department of Health. She was also a critical investigator in the Environmental influences on Children’s Health Outcomes Data Analysis Center (ECHO DAC), located at the Bloomberg School. In this role, Dr. Lee worked to coordinate and harmonize data and analyses on neurodevelopmental traits and outcomes across over 50 cohorts throughout the U.S.

In addition to her research contributions, Dr. Lee was an extraordinary teacher and mentor who shaped the careers of many students over the past two decades. Her excellence in teaching epidemiology and mental health courses was recognized annually. She also received the Bloomberg School’s prestigious Advising, Mentoring & Teaching Recognition Award (AMTRA) from the Student Assembly for her caring and expert advising. She also made a lasting contribution to the Center and School’s educational mission through the development of the first ever Autism and Developmental Disabilities in Public Health course, which we have offered as a Summer Institute course since 2014 and a full term course since 2016. This course, primarily due to Dr. Lee's excellence in teaching, received excellence recognition via student evaluations in nearly every offering so far, and has taught students in multiple programs of the Bloomberg School as well as students across the world via online offerings.

Dr. Lee was a beloved daughter, sister, and aunt and is survived by her father, four siblings, and 20 nieces and nephews.

The Wendy Klag Center hosted "World Class: An Autism Symposium in Memory of Dr. Li-Ching Lee" on April 4, 2022. 

If you would like to make a contribution to honor Dr. Lee's memory, please donate online. Please select “other” for your gift designation and enter “Wendy Klag Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities in honor of Li-Ching Lee.” Given her devotion to students and trainees, the gift will be used to support student travel, internships, or other needs.