Michael Li’s first introduction to public health was as a volunteer for a non-profit HIV services organization after completing his undergraduate education in molecular biology at the University of California, Irvine. His interest in the humanistic aspects of health grew from his involvement with vulnerable communities, eventually shifting his career to infectious disease case management and community health program management. Throughout his studies, working towards a Master’s degree in Public Health at California State University, Fullerton and eventually his PhD in Preventive Medicine at the University of Southern California, Michael expanded upon his first-hand experiences to explore questions about how social and environmental factors impact health among sexual, gender-based, and racial minority communities.
After receiving his doctorate degree in 2017, Michael joined the Department of Family Medicine at UCLA as a postdoctoral scholar in addiction medicine under Dr. Steve Shoptaw. His current research focus is in elucidating the effects of minority stress on stress biology and addiction, as well as their long-term implications for HIV infection and management of disease. He is investigating these research questions through an mSTUDY pilot and a large cohort study of patients in the Medical Care Coordination program in Los Angeles County. Michael has applied to the UCOP Fellowship and also plans to apply for an NIH K Award to advance his academic career in addiction medicine. In the near future, Michael hopes to work as an independent researcher in an academic setting where he can continue addressing the impact of society, human suffering, and biological systems on addiction.
Outside of work, Michael and his husband regularly attend dharma talks, practice meditation, and volunteer at their Jōdo Shinshū Buddhist temple in Orange County. On the side, they run a small woodworking business where they handcraft home décor and furnishings. They have two adorable dogs who love taking walks, receiving belly rubs, and eating peanut butter!