CAMBRIDGE -- A local doctor is being praised for her work preparing Cambridge for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Winnie Lee is chief of staff at Cambridge Memorial Hospital.

CEO Patrick Gaskin said Dr. Lee warned administration about the novel coronavirus back in January and began buying supplies and Plexiglas.

Dr. Lee's preparations stemmed from her experience as one of the first physicians to face SARS. At that time, she was a first-year resident at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.

"That was my first experience of something very scary," Dr. Lee said.

During one of her shifts as an on-call physician, Dr. Lee said she was asked to examine a patient because she was fluent in Cantonese. The patient had an unknown respiratory illness.

"We realized we stumbled on something very unique and nothing we had experienced before, which now we know as SARS," she said.

Dr. Lee said her memories of SARS came flowing back late last year when she saw what was happening in Wuhan.

"As the story progressed, I quickly recognized that this may have the same impact, if not more," she said.

By January, she'd strategized with the hospital to get supplies, including masks and paper bags to store them in.

"She brought that humility, that honesty, that vulnerability to the conversation," Gaskin said. "It was incredible, it blew me away that we've got someone who has had the experience and is going to help us through this one."

Gaskin said she's now used her influence to help the hospital fight the pandemic.

Dr. Lee implemented a buddy system for staff to ensure their personal protective equipment was used correctly. She also encouraged them to speak to one another to help them deal with fear of the unknown.

"We are stronger here at Cambridge Memorial because she is an all-in leader," Gaskin said. "She is so dedicated to the care in our community."