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Business Meeting

Kyoung Ryul Lee, MD, PhD, CEO of the SCL Group, Seoul Clinical Laboratory, a Specialist in Laboratory Medicine

What motivated your decision to attend medical school and become a physician? Could you share some particularly challenging or memorable incidents from your career in medicine?

I think I’ve been trying to help people with disabilities or suffering from diseases since childhood. From adolescence, I realized that I wanted to heal the underserved and marginalized through a career as a physician, where I could treat diseases in earnest.

Going into medical school, every step of the way was challenging, but deciding on a specialty was probably the most difficult choice I had to make. Even today, many people still find laboratory medicine unfamiliar. This was even more evident in the 1980s when the public perception of a doctor primarily revolved around patient care, spanning various specialties such as internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics, gynecology, or surgery, with limited understanding of laboratory medicine.

Because of this lack of familiarity, laboratory medicine became the focus of my thoughts since my days as a medical student: “How can we assist doctors in minimizing errors and enhancing the precision of diagnoses and treatments?” Although it was not a wellknown study at the time, I had a vision for the future of laboratory medicine in that it serves as the foundation for doctors to make decisions to save people. This choice has greatly impacted who I am today and the development of SCL.

Your instrumental role in the development and expansion of one of Korea’s most renowned medical examination centers, along with the establishment of facilities for diagnostic reagents and testing laboratories, is commendable. As a visionary in the global medical arena, could you please elaborate on your business philosophies and strategies?

Laboratory Medicine is a field dedicated to aiding doctors in achieving the objectives of patients and healthcare providers by providing error-free treatment. It emphasizes evidence-based medicine (EBM) to acknowledge and effectively utilize this importance.

During my internship and residency in laboratory medicine in the late 1980s and 1990s, I witnessed with interest that EBM became increasingly established in the medical community and expanded globally, and changed the medical industry. It was during this period that I envisioned crafting a world where both patients and healthcare providers find fulfillment through the implementation of evidence-based medicine (EBM). I became a specialist in laboratory medicine and was appointed a professor, and taught students. Then, I started a venture start-up to develop drug discovery support services and disease diagnostics. Afterward, I became involved in managing SCL, Korea’s first specialized laboratory agency, with the ambition of creating a professional medical service organization.

I believe it’s essential for a company to have a clear vision for development and growth. Since medical school, I’ve been constantly observing the domestic and international medical scene, identifying overlooked opportunities, and transforming them into visionary pursuits that others may not have recognized. Only when leaders have a clear vision, can they articulate it succinctly and clearly to their employees, and if the CEO isn’t convinced, they can neither lead nor grow.

Your impressive transition from an influential physician to a successful CEO and chairman of a group of multi-business entities is noteworthy. As someone with experience in both healthcare and corporate leadership, what are your future aspirations and plans?

Starting with the establishment of SCL (Seoul Clinical Laboratories) in 1983, which specialized in testing, SCL Group has grown into a comprehensive medical platform company with multiple affiliated companies in the healthcare sector, such as Hanaro Medical Foundation, a professional medical examination organization, SCL Healthcare, and Bio Food Lab.

In particular, SCL Group strives to expand its overseas business to promote ‘K-medicine’ to the world and strengthen its global competitiveness. Each of the group’s affiliates aims to expand overseas and eventually establish themselves in developed countries such as the United States and Europe. To date, we have entered Mongolia (MOBIO) and China (Dian Lab) through a close network of affiliates and recently established K-Lab in Indonesia to accelerate our expansion into overseas markets based on our long-standing research and analysis capabilities.

As an eminent opinion leader in laboratory medicine, could you highlight major changes or emerging trends in this field? Additionally, how do you foresee the field evolving in the next five years?

The significance of laboratory medicine has heightened alongside the prevalence of new infectious diseases and the advancement of personalized medicine, which analyzes patient characteristics to prevent and treat illnesses. Furthermore, with the recent integration of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) into diagnostic tests and pathology, laboratory medicine has emerged as a robust growth engine within the digital healthcare industry.

The COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the last few years, has shown us that fast and accurate diagnosis is critical for patients and healthcare systems. I believe that diagnostic testing methods will continue to improve, and the role of the laboratory medicine specialists will be emphasized to ensure the reliability of the various types of results. Standardization and harmonization of test methods must be supported to obtain reliable data. Therefore, I believe that the role of specialists in laboratory medicine and testing medical institutions is very important to keep up with the development of various diagnostic technologies.

While data utilization and security remain challenges for real-world applications, the use of digital tools in healthcare is on the rise. Countries are beginning to accelerate their adoption and include them in their healthcare systems. Diagnostic test data plays a pivotal role in medical decision-making, as errors in this data can significantly affect the accuracy of diagnoses and subsequent treatments. Ensuring the provision of high-quality data is therefore paramount in healthcare. Additionally, companies in the healthcare sector leveraging big data and digital technologies to produce diverse medical information stand to gain a competitive edge in the global healthcare market.

Your contributions to Yonsei University, where you currently serve as the President of the Yonsei University Alumni organization, are significant. What is your vision for Yonsei University and the Alumni Association, and how do you see their roles evolving?

Founded in 1885, the philosophy of Yonsei University has always been to “cultivate leaders who internalize the spirit of truth and freedom.” The modern world doesn’t just need one kind of knowledge. Instead, it needs people who can converge and apply diverse knowledge to solve problems through creative thinking. Under the slogan “Promise Yonsei, Challenge Yonsei!”, the 31st Alumni Association strives to promote fellowship and harmony among alumni and to develop Yonsei and its alumni with its three priorities below.

First, we are committed to respecting diversity and uniting under the name of Yonsei, as the Alumni Association comprises various alumni from undergraduate, graduate, and special programs.

Second, we are focused on expanding our development fund. The world’s top universities boast vibrant cultures of philanthropy. It’s a source of pride and admiration that Yonsei, my alma mater, has been recognized as the #1 private university in Asia by QS and THE rankings. However, to propel ourselves into the ranks of the top 30 universities worldwide, establishing a robust development fund is paramount. Securing a stable development fund will be essential for the university to develop into a globally renowned research institution that will attract esteemed professors and the finest students from around the world.

Lastly, we are committed to discovering future talents with convergence capabilities. As I mentioned earlier, the modern world doesn’t just need one kind of knowledge. Instead, it demands individuals who can integrate and apply diverse knowledge to address challenges with innovative solutions. Leveraging the breadth of majors offered by the university, we will facilitate collaborative education across disciplines to foster the development of these interdisciplinary talents who will shape the future.

One of our elderly founders, Missionary Horace G. Underwood, founded Yonhee and named it ‘Chosun Christian College.’ signifying it as the university of God’s choice. Yonsei University will take on the challenge with this profound commitment on our journey forward.

Our readers of the World Asian Medical Journal include physicians and leaders in the health and medical care industry throughout the U.S. and other countries. As an entrepreneur and thought leader in the medical field, what insights or messages would you like to share with our audience?

Since the Black Death in the Middle Ages in 1350, when the global population stood at approximately 370 million, the world has experienced moderate population growth. However, the Age of Exploration, the Industrial Revolution, and advancements in science and technology have spurred rapid population expansion, with the global population surpassing 8 billion in 2022.

As ‘high calories & low nutrition’ foods were introduced to serve the needs of this growing population, various lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, dementia, and cancer have become increasingly prevalent. To address this global problem, the World Health Organization is making great efforts to strengthen the prevention of diseases by advocating sustained lifestyle improvements. Therefore, healthcare providers around the world should unite and concentrate their efforts on raising public awareness and promoting healthier lifestyles.

April 12, 2024

Kyoung Ryul Lee, MD, PhD
  • CEO of SCL Group, Seoul Clinical Laboratory, a Specialist in Laboratory Medicine

Dr. Lee graduated from the College of Medicine and Graduate School of Yonsei University, envisioning evidence-based medicine (EBM) during his studies. While working as a professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine at Yonsei University, he founded a start-up company and became SCL’s second CEO, elevating it into a leading laboratory specialist with world-class research capabilities. With his leadership, SCL is taking another leap forward as a comprehensive healthcare group that provides transparent, data-driven precision medicine and digital healthcare platforms. In addition to his professional endeavors, Dr. Lee embodies a commitment to philanthropy, actively engaged in various social contribution activities such as health promotion projects, sharing daily necessities and IT education projects for the underprivileged in the local community, improving the medical environment overseas, and providing essential medical supplies to disaster-stricken areas. Alongside his leadership roles as the CEO of SCL Healthcare, president of SCL and CEO of InnoTherapy, he holds esteemed positions in multiple organizations, leveraging his expertise for broader societal impact, such as president of Yonsei University Alumni Association, professor of Laboratory Medicine at Yonsei University and director of the Global Village Welfare Foundation. His exceptional contributions have garnered widespread recognition, including receiving the Minister of Health and Welfare Award, Minister of Economy and Finance Award, Order of the Polar Star from the president of Mongolia, Mongolia’s Medical Pioneer Medal, Health Industry Development Special Advisor Award from China and Korea’s National Brand Grand Prize.


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