Open Book . . . Mitchell Li, SOM ’13

May 25, 2011

Open Book . . . Mitchell Li, SOM ’13 

Each Wednesday, the Daily Voice introduces you to a student or resident at UMass Medical School. We’ve asked our subjects to answer a few questions that might reveal a little of their personalities. If you know someone who you’d like to see profiled, let us know at



Mitchell Li, SOM ’13, from Marlborough, is a graduate of Northeastern University. He is a member of Kelley House. 

Mitchel Li

Why did you choose medical school, and why UMass? 

If I even brought up the question of which medical school to attend to any practicing physician (whether from UMass or not), they instantly replied, no brainer—UMass! So I applied to five schools in the area with my sights set on UMass. It’s a good thing I got in. If I had any doubts, my interview at Boston University was painfully awkward. (I got in anyway.) Second-look weekend at UMass was phenomenal and is where I met my equally phenomenal roommates. 

Describe yourself in six words or fewer. 

Really, really, ridiculously good looking. 

If you were stranded on a deserted island, name three things you would want. 

1. Red wine 
2. The will to survive? 
3. If all else fails: a Wilson volleyball 

If you could have dinner with a famous person, living or dead, who would that be and why? 

Alton Brown. I used to watch his show nearly religiously. 

What person or experience made you decide to pursue a medical degree and why? 

I did some early work at the Harvard School of Public Health, and as an EMT at Cataldo Ambulance. I have a passion for public health, especially how to change the population’s unhealthy behaviors effectively, but without making them angry. I think there are some creative and underutilized ways to accomplish this. I don’t like to get people angry. It still happens sometimes, but I don’t prefer it. 

I considered going straight in to a master’s of public health, but I also got addicted to the clinical portion of emergency medical services and felt I wanted the challenge, like any overachieving med student should. 

What is the most interesting or challenging job (paid or unpaid) you’ve ever had, and why? What did it teach you about yourself? 

My most interesting (and definitely challenging at times) job has by far been working as an EMT at Cataldo Ambulance. However, I had an unfortunate challenge at my first job when I was 16 at Papa Gino’s, when a very large man had a . . . very large accident in the bathroom, which I was required to clean up. This was clearly in preparation for third-year clerkships in medical school. 

What would your fellow students be surprised to learn about you?

Most students in my class think I am a computer genius because I help professors out with the audio visual systems. Truth is, I don’t have a clue and usually ask Alex Kaiser. 

If UMass Medical School had not been an option, what would you be doing right now? 

Probably still working as an EMT, and maybe pursuing a degree in public health. I also considered attending culinary school and working at a microbrewery with the goal of opening a restaurant/microbrewery. My career counselor said that was ridiculous, so here I am. 

If you could change the world as a physician, what would you like to do? 

Though inspiring to most aspiring medical students, to me, Paul Farmer’s story was utterly discouraging. I mean honestly—founding Partners in Health while learning your entire medical education remotely in Haiti before the advent of recorded streaming lectures? We certainly have a few potential Paul Farmers in our class, but I don’t possess the pure genius required for that. Many students in my class may also discover novel therapies for cancer or HIV/AIDS. I see my niche in systems in medicine and public health as finding creative ways to streamline primary care and structuring the environment and policy to improve public health. Cardiovascular medicine is of particular interest to me right now as it ties in with my public health background. And my strong family history makes it difficult to ignore! 

Most surprising thing you’ve discovered about medical school? 

Maybe it’s what I haven’t discovered about medical school. It’s hard work, but for the most part, I still have a normal life! Or at least that’s what I would consider it. 

Most surprising thing you’ve discovered about Worcester? 

Worcester is not, in fact, Western Mass . . . actually quite a surprise to me. I was also surprised to see it listed as Forbes Magazine’s ninth most live-able city in the U.S in 2009. Maybe Dr. Ennis is on to something. 

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