Just a few weeks ago, Karen Li returned to Winchester High School to serve as the keynote speaker at the Sachems Lead summer leadership workshop for WHS Students on Aug. 21. Karen discussed her experiences while at WHS and beyond, which have helped shape the person she is today.
What are you doing now? Where are you currently living?
I work at Brigham & Women’s as a clinical research coordinator in Neurocritical Care and Stroke research. I currently live in Boston.
What connection, if any, do you still have to WHS or the community?
I am the oldest of three siblings and the first to graduate WHS. My middle sister, Winnie, graduated from WHS in 2017. My youngest sister, Judy, is entering as a sophomore at WHS. She also plays on the girls volleyball team, the sport I played and very much enjoyed during my time at WHS. My parents still live in Winchester and enjoy being a part of the community.
Was there a favorite moment, person or experience at WHS that you remember that has helped you find your passions or reach your goals?
Coach Fleming has been my greatest support since day one. I remember when I was still an inexperienced junior, unsure of what it means to be a leader in a community. He was the coach my first year on girls varsity and looking back, the lessons he taught me off the court have been more valuable than the ones on the court. During college, a highlight of my summer was coming back to help coach the summer volleyball clinic. It was really heartwarming to see the younger girls grow and evolve – from having no experience with the sport to becoming captains. Evidenced by the success and growth of the volleyball program WHS and strong alumni engagement, it’s clear that his efforts investing in me (and my peers) as students, athletes, and individuals during WHS continues to be influential beyond my Winchester High School days. He’s taught me a lot beyond high school about leadership, as exemplified by him, and what it means to be a part of a community and how to build a successful one. I carried that valuable lesson with me in college and continue to do so. Thanks Coach!
What was the path you took to get where you are today?
I had no idea what I wanted to do when I graduated from WHS and entered into college. Starting my freshman year at Umass Amherst, all I did know was that I’d try as many new experiences as possible that I was interested in and find opportunities that aligned with my goals. In doing so, I became an active member on campus while pursuing my career interests. I’m currently working in clinical research and am applying to medical school.
Please share a success since leaving WHS.
Since working at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, I’ve gotten a few papers published as a co-author in neurocritical care and stroke studies. This past May, I had the opportunity to present at the American Academy of Neurology annual conference in Philadelphia on a study I have been working on. It was a very cool opportunity to be selected as a platform presentation at this national conference (albeit a little nerve wracking as well).
Is there insight or advice you can share with current students?
Be open to new experiences! Don’t be afraid to try something new. As a pre-med student in undergrad, I chose to major in business instead of a more common science discipline. I decided to learn about operations management because it was interesting and I found relevant ways to apply it to my pre-med interests. Although my decision to pursue business and pre-med as an undergrad was unorthodox, I was able to graduate successfully (with much planning). It was worthwhile doing something I was interested in and not being afraid to try something new!