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William Li

William Li, MD, M.Sc

Director of Radiation Oncology
NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens

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Finding Joy in Cancer Care

As an innovative and widely admired radiation oncologist, Dr. William Li feels a special thrill every time he and his team deliver a course of radiation therapy that gives a patient their life back. “I feel so happy when I see a large cancer melting away day by day,” Dr. Li says. “Every time a very sick patient returns to normal life, it adds meaning to my life.” 

It means even more because Dr. Li is a cancer survivor himself – a personal experience that not only gives him empathy for his patients but deepens his admiration for his colleagues. “I am so grateful to the physicians who take care of me,” he says, “The impact they have had on my life makes me appreciate the work of physicians so much more.”

Dr. Li has served the Queens community for 25 years, and in 2012 he was awarded the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor, which celebrates “inspiring Americans who are selflessly working for the betterment of our country and its citizens.” 

Dr. Li came to New York after completing his medical degree in China, a masters in medical biophysics in Toronto and a research fellowship in San Francisco. After serving his residency at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, he began his career at New York Hospital of Queens before joining NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens as director of radiation oncology in 2002. 

The hospital established the Queens Cancer Care Center the same year, and Dr. Li has been integral to its rise as a top cancer treatment center. Among other innovations, he initiated the use of brachytherapy, a highly effective treatment that involves placing radioactive material inside the body and delivering radiation directly to the cancer area. These advances have put his department’s CAHPS patient satisfaction score in the top 1% of the nation for many years. Brachytherapy is now offered both to patients in the Health + Hospitals system and private patients referred by community physicians.

Apart from his clinical work, Dr. Li has been an assistant professor of radiation oncology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai since 2003. He has received the Distinguished Service Award from the Association of Chinese American Physicians and citations from Congress and the New York State Assembly.

“I feel very fortunate to be an NYC Health + Hospitals doctor because you can focus on doing what’s best for your patient – their ability to pay is not a distraction,” Dr. Li says. “It makes so much difference to always be able to tell sick people in need, ‘I will take care of you.’ ”

Learn more about our Doctors Day Award Winners