Name: Dennis Li
Medical Title/Credentials: MS-2 (second year MD student)
Location: Chicago, Illinois
School/Program: Doctor of Medicine candidate at Rush Medical College
Favorite Hobby: I recently picked up a camera during quarantine and started doing photography! I had never owned a camera prior to 4-months ago, so it’s been an absolute blast reading and watching tutorials about composition and exposure. I’ve recently been reading “Understanding Composition” by Bryan Peterson, and have taken a few courses on photography, as well as photo editing! I love the idea of using photography as a medium to express myself, while also serving as a way to capture my memories, lessons, and experiences with my followers on social media! I’ve also recently picked up a drone to work on aerial photography!
What made you choose your profession? When I was a child I was a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes. I was later told Sherlock Holmes was just a fictional character, but I still loved the idea of being a detective. When I was young, I had a pediatrician who was very similar to Sherlock Holmes. He used little clues here and there, symptoms, a person’s history, lab tests, and imaging to figure out who the “villain” (the diagnosis) was. I became fascinated the idea that I could still become “Dennis Holmes— the “medical” detective. This idea put me on the path of medicine, where I became an EMT at the age of 18. Upon serving the underserved community of Inglewood, California, I quickly realized that I couldn’t be the cold, calculating machine Sherlock seemed to be. I was treating human beings, and soon I learned to value and cherish the connections I would be able to make with other people in the profession of medicine. I was fascinated with the idea of pursuing a career that allowed me to refine my deductive abilities, connect with and help others in their time of need, and do so while working with a team of compassionate, like-minded healthcare professionals.
Biggest Inspiration: Dr. Ali Abdaal is a huge inspiration for me! He is a doctor based in the UK, and produces tons of content on productivity and self-improvement to allow people to live happier, and healthier lives. Dr. Abdaal not only produces great video content, but also has his own podcast, is a musician, is a magician, runs his own businesses, and more. He is the epitome of productivity and shows us that even if we are busy, we are still able to make time for the things that we love and care about.
Current Passion Project: I am currently a student of Cinematography! Cinematography combines aspects of both video production and photography in that you learn to use composition, exposure, color theory, dynamic camera movements, lighting, and storytelling to make something beautiful. I still have a long way to go, but feel that I’ve done a decent job after picking up a camera about 4 months ago!
What sort of challenges have you faced in your life? How have you overcome them? I am currently a medical student and on the path of my dream of becoming a physician. But things weren’t always fine and dandy. Before I was accepted to medical school, I was actually rejected during my first application cycle! I was rejected by 40+ medical schools during my first round of applications and about 30+ schools during my second application. The rejections were obviously difficult, but I accepted them as a temporary obstacle rather than a permanent one. I went back to the drawing board, and completely re-evaluated my weaknesses. I read 15+ books on how to improve myself as a person. I traveled to over 20 countries to expand my perspectives. I got my habits in check. I studied successful people. I studied the mentality of navy seals. I worked on my health. I meditated. I got stronger than I’ve ever been. I asked myself how I could be better day by day. I never stopped learning. I doubled down on my dream of becoming a physician. I refused to be turned away. I didn’t know when I was going to be accepted, but I knew I WOULD. Eventually all my hardworking paid off. Upon applying a second time, I had more interviews than I could have imagined.
The moral of the story is that it doesn’t matter if no one believes in you, as long as you believe in yourself. Be better. Build a thicker skin. Develop your passion. Strengthen your resolve. The universe has no choice but to give way to those who have a dream and stop at nothing to pursue it. The rejections at the time were tough, but they helped me build an unbreakable mindset that will get me through anything. So to anyone who needs to hear this, just keep going!
Fun Fact: I’m actually a magician! I became fascinated with magic when I was in high school. I would take the bus home from school every day, and my bus stop was across the street from a local magic shop. My bus would come every 20-30 minutes, so one day I walked into the shop across the street. I asked the shopkeeper there at the time to blow my mind and that is exactly what he did. He showed me a few simple magic tricks that I still remember today. I learned to love the intricacies of magic— how one can use misdirection to guide a person’s gaze, the discipline needed to refine your sleight of hand, and the showmanship and story-telling abilities required to be an enticing magician!
Do you have any advice for others interested in entering your field? Medicine is a very long and rigorous journey. Make sure that it is something that you are truly passionate about. Have a strong “Why.” What will get you through your 13-hour shifts? What about when you have to study for your exams after that? What about when you realize you have to do it over again the next day? What will keep you going when you inevitably make a mistake that has large consequences? If medicine is not for you, that is absolutely okay. There are amazing professions out there (I couldn’t possibly begin to mention all of them). Take your time, figure out where you passions lie, and go pursue it!
Extra Advice: When I was applying for medical school, my sole goal in life was to become a doctor. Finally thing is that during my gap years, I learned to understand that becoming a doctor was not the end-all-be-all goal for me. I realized there so many other passions I want to pursue and so many interests I have yet to explore. Medicine is a big part of who I am. However, it isn’t the only thing that defines me; I am an athlete, a magician, a productivity junkie, a man on a quest to relentlessly improve myself, and much, much more! I think applicants feel a significant amount of pressure because getting into medical school is a difficult process, but trust me when I say that you should learn to enjoy the journey rather than the destination itself and never lose yourself, your interests, or your hobbies in the process.
Other things you'd like to share: As you can probably tell, I am very into medicine, fitness, and mindset. I currently use my instagram @doctor.dennis to document my journey through medical school— My victories, my failures, as well as the journeys, insights, and lessons that I’ve picked up along the way. If this is something you are interested in, I would love to have you join my community. If you have any questions at all, feel free to message me at any time. I personally read and answer all of my messages and comments so don’t hesitate to reach out!
Any other piece of advice, motivational quote, or message you would like to share? One of my favorite quotes of all times is by Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Therefore excellence is not an act, but a habit.” We can strive to do excellent work on any one single day, but it’s not unless we have a system of good habits in place that we can truly embody what it means to be excellent. This means developing good habits that help your grow as a person, and put you in a state of good health both physically and mentally. Are you exercising? How’s your nutrition? Do you meditate? Do your journal and do daily gratitude? There are habits that many of the most successful people of our time do. They didn’t become successful overnight— they had a system of good habits that acted like compounding interest that help them get better and better each day to get where they are today.
Always open to chat,