Jeff Li was drawn to UT by the roaring school spirit, high-caliber academics and top-notch funding for research. When he started at UT he found a land of opportunity as he made the transformation from Biochemistry major in his freshman year to a double major in BHP and the Dean’s Scholar Honor’s Program in natural sciences. He also received the Unrestricted Endowed Presidential Scholarship, which is one of the most prestigious continuing student scholarships offered by UT and has also become heavily involved in research, “I’m so thankful that I chose UT because there are a lot of opportunities here that I don’t think I would’ve found elsewhere,” said Li.
Li has always known that he wanted to go into healthcare and research, interning at the Texas Medical Center immediately after graduating high school. Now as a junior in the BHP, Li has found a new interest in examining how healthcare and business intersect, “I want to learn more about how to take the business principles from my BHP courses and cross-apply them to make healthcare more efficient. I want to make a big contribution in this area,” said Li.
He is specifically concerned with how research funds are allocated and the extended time gap between when a medical breakthrough begins at the laboratory bench to ten plus years when it reaches the patient’s bedside. “It’s interesting to me how someone puts a quantitative value on someone’s potential research. I think business concepts and risk management can play a big part in improving this decision-making process by decreasing possible risk and subjectivity,” said Li. “Something McCombs is really good at is teaching us how to make the best choices with a limited amount of information and that’s something I want to continue to learn here and apply to interdisciplinary healthcare and science fields.”
As for the time gap in the research process, Li would like to find improvements to promote efficiency. “What I want to do is leverage education and sustainable business models to develop new therapies for things like Alzheimer’s and cancer, and create new technologies,” said Li. “And I’d like to accelerate that development – get the necessary approval, get it to the patient’s bedside and then bring the information you collect from the patient’s bedside back to the lab bench creating bi-directional communication.”
Shortly after beginning in the BHP, Li discovered another passion for education through Learn To Be, a non-profit organization that offers free online tutoring services to underprivileged children across the country. Li became involved with the UT chapter, started by a group of BHP students, after learning about the group’s mission. “A lot of times tutoring doesn’t make it to the areas that need it most,” said Li. “What most schools in the nation do have is a computer and internet access, which is really all we need.” Learn To Be has over 600 tutors across the nation made available to students in grades 5–12 via different pre-existing technologies.
Ultimately, Li is working towards creating a better world for generations to come, “I believe that people should not be a victim of their DNA. People should not be a victim of the zip code from where they grew up. Everyone should have the right to aspire to something,” said Li.
Li’s outstanding contributions on campus have not gone unnoticed. He was recently chosen as a recipient of the Texas Exes Presidential Leadership Award, which recognizes undergraduate students who have demonstrated outstanding leadership within the student community at UT Austin. “It means the world to me,” said Li. “I really love that the UT community rewards students for taking a blind leap of faith to make real changes in this world, holding true to the motto, ‘What starts here changes the world,’” said Li. He also encourages his peers to find their passion and take action, “A lot of people think they’ll wait to create change until they get a job or finish graduate school, but you can make a difference right here, right now.”
Li will graduate next year and plans to continue on to medical school. His hope for the future is to work as an intermediary improving the health of others by further opening the valve between research and healthcare.