Fertility Blog

We're Proud to Welcome Our Newest Member, Dr. Liyun Li

My childhood years spent holding the calligraphy brush played a critical role in helping me stay connected with my cultural roots after my family’s immigration to Canada when I was twelve. Through the mastery of this traditional art form, I gained a deeper understanding of Chinese history and culture. It has given me a platform with which I was able to continue my study of the Chinese language and literature long after English had become my primary language of learning.

My family’s immigration to Canada was serendipitous. My father initially took us abroad for a one-year visiting fellowship at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. It was the summer of 1989, when the communist regimes throughout Europe fell like dominos and in Beijing the bloody suppression of student demonstrators for democracy occurred in Tiananmen Square. Although we were not politically involved, my family was given the opportunity to seek asylum in Canada. My parents decided to stay.

What followed was the classic immigrant story, filled with the hardships of survival in a foreign country away from loved ones, and, at the same time, the never diminishing hope and optimism for the attainment of the “American dream”.

After attending junior and high school in Canada where I excelled in math and science, I applied to colleges in the U.S. with a vague plan to have a career in the sciences. With this in mind, I was convinced that MIT offered the strongest programs in virtually every scientific discipline. My years at MIT were the most formative period in my professional and personal development. My professors and research mentor opened my eyes to the wonders of biology and inspired me to pursue a career in the study of the human body. I became fascinated by how the body functions, especially the mysterious process by which a single stem cell develops into a complete organism. At the same time, I continued to pursue my interest in Chinese by taking graduate level courses at Harvard and obtained a minor in Chinese literature along with my S.B. in Biology from MIT.

My interest in the human body led me to study medicine at Harvard Medical School. During medical school, I conducted research in developmental neuroscience, which led to my honors thesis. In addition, I became clinically interested in women’s health, a multifaceted discipline with broad psychosocial, political, as well as ethical implications. I realized that I wanted to take care of women, promote reproductive health, and be a part of building families. To that end, I completed a residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). During my residency, I learned to treat women of all ages and with every type of ailment from morning sickness to ovarian cancer. It soon became clear that while I enjoyed delivering babies, I resonated most with patients who could not conceive. Furthermore, the combination of advanced technology and cutting edge research in reproductive medicine perfectly matched my long held passions in science and technology. Having come to that realization, I decided to pursue subspecialty training in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, and was accepted into the fellowship at Columbia University Medical Center in New York.

At Columbia, I was fortunate to be taught by some of the pioneers of the field, Drs. Roger Lobo and Mark Sauer, who have trained many respected Reproductive Endocrinologists around the country, including PFC’s very own Dr. Chenette. Under their guidance, I conducted research on how follicular hormones affect human oocyte and embryo quality, which has led to several published manuscripts in peer respected journals, as well as my fellowship thesis. Clinically, I became interested in treating patients with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and other endocrine disorders, as well as fertility preservation, for patients who desire to delay childbearing for either medical or social reasons.

While I was a resident at UCSF, I met and fell in love with my husband and we welcomed the birth of our daughter last year. We both love the Bay Area and decided that San Francisco is the place where we want to raise our family. I have always had the highest regard for the physicians at PFC, one of the most respected fertility centers in Northern California. Therefore, it is my pleasure and privilege to be able to join Drs. Herbert, Schriock, Givens, Chenette, and Ryan in their mission to help women and families of the Bay Area and beyond in achieving their reproductive potential.

Throughout all these years of training and research during which I learned many exciting new skills and technologies, I still derive the most profound joy and satisfaction from the very first glimpse of a beating heart on ultrasound and the accompanying excitement in my patient’s eyes. It was not until I held my own daughter and she flashed me one of her toothless gummy grins that the notion finally hit home: life is precious and the love for one’s child knows no boundaries. I am truly lucky to be in a profession where I have been granted the privilege to take part in the creation of a family, a privilege that I will honor and treasure throughout my career.

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