Meet new faculty: Xiaoming Li, public health

Name: Xiaoming Li
College/department: Arnold School of Public Health, health promotion, education and behavior
Title: Professor and SmartState Endowed Chair in Translational Clinical Research, director of South Carolina SmartState Center for Healthcare Quality in Arnold School of Public Health
Degrees: Ph.D.
Hometown: Born in Jiangsu, China; came to U.S. in 1987

What’s your area of study or research?

I have a somewhat unconventional education and career path: I was a math major in college and a Ph.D. in educational psychology but ended up working in medical school (Department of Pediatrics) for almost 23 years before I became a public health faculty member at USC. I have been doing a number of things over the past 23 years,  but mainly in global health and health disparities research. Some specific areas of research include HIV behavioral prevention and intervention; social stigma, mental health, resilience-based psychosocial intervention for disadvantaged children including children affected by parental HIV/AIDS or parental migration. I have been a consultant for the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (Geneva) and other international institutes and agencies. I also have worked in China, Namibia, India, Zambia, the Bahamas and Vietnam on HIV-related research.

Why did you choose Carolina?

I came to the U.S. in 1987 and studied in Minnesota and worked in three states: Maryland, West Virginia and Michigan. I had never lived in the South. I think sunny and warmer weather in the winter may be an attraction after 12-plus years in Detroit (kidding). The chief reason is that the position at USC will present some unparalleled opportunities (and, of course, challenges, too) for me and my research team to expand the horizon of our research. The visionary leadership and strong multidisciplinary research environment at the Arnold School of Public Health are also the reasons for me and other members of my research team to come. (I came to USC with two faculty members – Jan Ostermann and Shan Qiao and three post-doc fellows). 

What are you most looking forward to this year?

To know Columbia and South Carolina better and to get connected with various potential collaborators in the department, in Public Health, at Health Sciences South Carolina, on campus and across the state (including people at MUSC and Clemson) who share common research interests. I also want to develop and implement some research training programs that will attract smart and motivated students to work with Healthcare Quality faculty.

What are you most looking forward to about being at UofSC? In Columbia? Or in South Carolina?  

On the work side, working with faculty and students from different fields (such as psychology, biological, genetics, big data) to expand the scope of our social behavioral research; on the life side, I am looking forward to learning the rich culture and history of the city and the state. 

How did you become interested in your work?

I started my area of research in 1992 after I finished my doctoral program at University of Minnesota. I found my work is challenging and rewarding as it has the potential to help many individuals who are in a great need for help. 

What made you decide to go into academia?

I made my decision many, many years ago (academia has been the only job I have had so far beside the four-year farming job I had before going to college) but have not had a single moment of regret. I enjoy the academic freedom, enjoy the intellectual exchanges with my colleagues on an almost daily basis; enjoy the challenges of creating new knowledge and doing something different every day. I also enjoy working with students and junior faculty: mentoring them, learning from them, and seeing them growing up (professionally).

What’s a talent you have or something that you’ve done that people might find surprising?

Nothing really but will be happy to know if other people find any.

What do you hope to accomplish over the next five years?

This may be a question that I will think about when I wake up in the early morning. I will continue working in the areas of research I have been doing (e.g., psychosocial promotion among children affected by parental HIV/AIDS, social behavioral intervention). But I would like to try something new. One area is the application of big data in health and health care research; another is the HIV prevention intervention among various vulnerable populations in South Carolina and other Southern states. I hope to work closely with colleagues from Health Sciences South Carolina, the USC School of Medicine and other health care colleges and facilities in the area on issues of disease prevention, health care quality, translational clinical research and service delivery. In addition, I hope to spend time working with junior faculty and post-doctoral fellows and graduate students to help them get their feet on the ground for independent research in terms of peer-review publications and research grants. 

What was your dissertation?

I cannot remember as it was done more than 23 years ago. Even if I remember, it does not mean anything to me any more.

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