Yee Family Builds on Asian Heritage, Medical Legacy of Ancestors
May 14, 2024
Sutter Health
Asian family in front of pioneer store

Dr. David Yee, right, and his family visit the Chew Kee Store in the Gold Rush town of Fiddletown, east of Sacramento, where their pioneer ancestor Yee Fung Cheung was an herbal doctor.

By Kathy Engle and Gary Zavoral, Vitals contributors

The memory of Dr. David Yee’s great-great-grandfather, Ming Young Lee, sparked the creation of the Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, celebrated every May. In the 1860s, Lee helped build the Transcontinental Railroad but was killed during a time of anti-Chinese sentiment. Through the advocacy and determination of Dr. Yee’s aunt, Jeanie Jew, the federal month of recognition was born.

“Stories of my ancestors make AAPI Heritage Month deeply personal to me, with my aunt serving as the principal voice to make the month of recognition a reality,” says Dr. Yee, a Sutter Roseville Medical Center urologic oncologist.

Chinese medicine cabinet

This is where the Yee family’s medical heritage began, in the Gold Rush-era herbal store and medical office of their pioneering ancestor Dr. Yee Fung Cheung. Built in 1850, it is located in Fiddletown. This is where Chinese medicines were stored.

Ming Young Lee isn’t Dr. Yee’s only Chinese ancestor who sparked a great heritage. His great-great-great-grandfather Dr. Yee Fung Cheung was a Gold Rush herbal doctor who, in 1862, is credited with curing then-California first lady Jane Stanford of a severe pulmonary illness. Since then, there has been an unbroken succession of Yees who have provided care in the medical and dental fields, many of them serving residents in the greater Sacramento region.

Now, Dr. Yee and his extended family want to help other members of the Sutter Health family become doctors, too. The Yee family recently gave $250,000 to establish the Herbert and Inez Yee Physician Next Generation Endowed Scholarship, an endowed fund to support the medical school education for children and grandchildren of Sutter Health-affiliated physicians. The gift also qualifies for a dollar-for-dollar Sutter match, doubling the impact of this Yee family gift to $500,000.

“It is an honor for us to be able to continue our family’s legacy and help spur the success of other families at Sutter,” Dr. Yee says. “This is a personal way to help our colleagues and their families while also supporting one of Sutter’s driving tenets to develop a robust physician workforce to grow our network of care.”

The scholarship is named after Dr. Yee’s grandfather, Dr. Herbert K. Yee, a prominent Sacramento dental surgeon, community leader and philanthropist. He and wife Inez raised four sons, who followed their father into the dental and medical professions. One of those sons is Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento pulmonologist Dr. Alan Yee, whose wife, Helen, is a Sutter Medical Center Foundation board member.

Quote with doctor photo“My father felt blessed after immigrating here from China in 1930 and truly succeeding to build his American dream, but he also stressed community involvement and the power of giving back,” says Dr. Alan Yee, a Sutter-affiliated physician for nearly 40 years. “As an inspiration for our family, there is no better way to honor my parents than to support the education of the next generation of physicians.”

Dr. David Yee remembers both his grandparents’ belief that education was the great equalizer. This scholarship serves to honor their family patriarch and matriarch, while also making an impact on an institution so many in the family touched.

“We love Sutter. I have aunts and uncles who have been involved with Sutter for decades, serving on boards, working as physicians and pharmacists,” says Dr. David Yee, who has practiced at Sutter for more than 12 years and is a commissioner for the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs. “This is a personal way to help our colleagues and their families while also supporting one of Sutter’s driving tenets to develop a robust physician workforce to grow our network of care.”

If you are interested in contributing to the endowment to help support medical students, please contact Bryan Belden at



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