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My Story: From Mother's Study To Medical Business

Jeff Li working in a labThe following is an excerpt from an interview with Jeff Li, BBA '15, a student in the business honors program (BHP) at the McCombs School of Business, which originally appeared on Poets & Quants for Undergrads.

I have always considered medicine and science to be my main thing — ever since elementary school. You know how you always hear stories about parents really wanting their kids to become doctors or lawyers? My mom told me to just find what made me happy and do that. For a while, she really discouraged me from being a doctor. The lifestyle is hard, it's not for everyone, and she said to just go and find some job and do that instead.

On the topic of courses, Li shared which class has been his favorite and why:

One of the best classes I've taken was a business course last semester. It was an operations management class where we were put into groups and we were given a client to do operations consulting for. I was in the group that consulted for Brackenridge Hospital in Austin. Our project was to help them with their patient wait time. Brackenridge serves the safety-net population of Austin, so it's people who are homeless or who don't have health insurance. The hospital provides all these specialties, but the problem is when the patients get referred to the specialist, often it will be six to eight months before they can actually be seen. So it's a huge issue for obvious reasons. We worked throughout the semester and came up with a business proposal and an entire operations report on what we thought they should do. So that's a very concrete and very real example of what I learned in the business school and how I can apply it to medicine and apply it to making patient's lives better.

On his plans for the future:

I've been thinking a lot lately about combined M.D./MBA programs. My immediate goal when I finish up training is to use my business and medical research skills together.

Li opens up about the struggles he has experienced while pursuing two intense degrees, and offers advice to students interested in following the same path:

I second-guess what I'm doing all the time. One reason is just that it's really difficult because the course load is intense. None of the courses overlap, so you know, when it's three in the morning and I'm on my second cup of coffee, I always start to question those kinds of things. But what's really great about the faculty in the business honors program at The University of Texas at Austin is they always try to make their course material relevant to you. So after a few weeks, the MIS [Management Information Systems] class started talking about health IT things. When we started framing things in that way, I started seeing how MIS, finance, and accounting are not just for Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, and Deloitte. They're for everything.

For students interested in pairing business and medicine, don't be afraid. Don't be afraid of biting off more than you can chew, don't be afraid of pushing yourself. You might not think you're going to make it through a biochemistry exam and an accounting exam and an operations management exam on the same day, but ultimately, if you push through hard enough, you'll make it. And you'll be like, "Oh, I don’t feel right about joining so many organizations and being so involved." But don't be afraid. Just go out and just try it — what's the worst that can happen? You'll never know where your limits are until you've gone past them.

Read the full interview on Poets & Quants for Undergrads.

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