Spotlight: Yi Li, MD, Assistant Professor of Radiology

Yi Li, MDJune 18, 2020

Dr. Yi Li, an attending neuroradiologist, recalls a teacher in childhood who advised her to follow her interests and pursue things in life not because they are easy, but because the reward is worth the challenge and the investment. With her motivated, calm, and curious temperament, this advice has served Dr. Li well thus far in her education and career.

Growing up in the small town of Fort Dodge, Iowa as the daughter of two scientists had its benefits. Dr. Li knew from an early age that she would have a career in science, crediting her family with encourgement.

During college, Li worked with yeast in a molecular genetics lab and described that experience as “incredibly boring!” While that early lab experience didn’t make the direct connection to human health that she was seeking, Li was fortunate to find excellent mentors in medical school, residency, and fellowship, all of whom have contributed to her career as a clinician, teacher, and researcher. As a medical student Li’s initial focus was pediatrics, but after working on a fetal and pediatric neurologic imaging project, she found her calling in radiology.

Dr. Li has held many roles at UCSF, starting in 2011 when she came to the department as a first-year diagnostic radiology resident. At residency graduation, she was a recipient of the Margulis Society resident research award.  She then stayed for a neuroradiology fellowship, serving as chief fellow during her clinical instructorship year. Dr. Li received the 2018 Outstanding Fellow/Instructor Teaching Award, and in July 2018 joined the neuroradiology section as faculty member.

Dr. Li is also a researcher and a recipient of the RSNA Research Scholar Award.  As an early career faculty member, she is thankful for her many collaborators and mentors in the department. In particular, she cites the mentorship of Dr. Rahul Desikan as profoundly formative, and recalls that in addition to being a brilliant scientist, Desikan was always extremely generous with his time and ideas. In 2019, Dr. Li was the recipient of the department’s inaugural Rahul Desikan, MD Award for Outstanding Research.

This year, Dr. Li became the Associate Fellowship Director for the neuroradiology fellowship, noting that “By far the most rewarding part of my job is working with residents and fellows on a daily basis. We are so fortunate every year to attract smart, motivated and engaging trainees into our residency and fellowship programs. I really enjoy teaching and watching them transition through the years to become stellar radiologists and neuroradiologists.” Dr. Li looks forward to working closely with Dr. Vinil Shah, the neuroradiology fellowship director, and the neuroradiology fellows to continuously improve the already top-notch training program. 

Two years ago, Li took on a new role – she became a mother. This year due to the shelter-in-place, she has picked up gardening as well.  She has a small strawberry patch, many raspberry canes, and a plot of basil and kale to tend. Her two-year-old son has decided he really likes gardening too!

Dr. Li is grateful for the many role models and mentors who have supported her training and career. She notes, in particular, all of the strong women in the department, at all levels of training and seniority, and across all the sections. “I have turned to so many people for advice over the years. Every day, I receive advice on career and motherhood, and I am really grateful for the support and encouragement. I look forward to doing my part in contributing to the department’s tradition of mentoring.”

By L. Delgado

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