Work Done Well: Annie Li

Annie Li

Physician Assistant with San Leandro and Fremont Kaiser Hospitals

Annie Li was born and raised in San Francisco. She currently works as a Physician Assistant at two hospitals in Northern California. During her free time she enjoys swing dancing, playing music on her multiple instruments (guitar, piano, ukulele), serving the worship team at Grace Church Fremont, FaceTiming her nieces and nephews, hanging out with friends over meals,  coffee, and boba, going to museums, and enjoying walks and hikes with friends and family.

Welcome Annie, to the Women and Work, Work Done Well Blog. We are honored to have you be our special featured guest this month and for our readers to be encouraged by the good work you are doing day in and day out. Please share with us about the vocational journey God has taken you on and where he has you working today? 

It’s been quite a journey. I studied music at UC Davis and then pursued a teaching credential at Sacramento State University. After graduation, I found a job with the San Lorenzo Unified School District as an elementary school music teacher. Little did I realize over the next few years that this career choice would be unstable.  I worked for several school districts in Northern California but because of budget cuts, I was always looking for a job. One day, during yet another period of unemployment, my pastor asked, “If I had all the time and money in the world, what would I would like to do?” I said missions, since I went on many mission trips during my summers and enjoyed helping people.  


In the fall of 2006, I enrolled at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (now called Gateway Seminary) and studied Educational Leadership and Intercultural Studies. Upon graduation, I found a part-time job as a worship leader at a small church in San Francisco. After three years of ministry and lots of drama, I had to step down. I went back to teaching music but felt a little frustrated because it wasn’t stable and the students were hard to discipline. That’s when I prayed and decided to do a complete career change. When I was in Thailand one summer leading a short-term trip mission trip, we partnered with a doctor in the area. I really admired him and after much discussion, he encouraged me to pursue medicine, which would allow me more opportunities to show God’s love, both at home and in the world. After much thought and prayer, becoming a physician assistant appealed to me the most. This career path would give me an opportunity to prescribe medication, educate people about their health, and open doors to interact with the community. 

Long story short, God opened doors for me to study Physician Assistant Studies at Sullivan University in Louisville, Kentucky. Upon graduation, I moved back to California and found work in Southern CA, where I worked in the urgent care settings for three years. Then Covid hit and I joined the ranks of exhausted healthcare workers (the waiting rooms were always packed, the lines were out the door, and my supervisors always begged me to pick up extra shifts). When I saw a position in Gastroenterology in Northern California, I decided to take it so I could be closer to friends and family. Now I’m living near San Francisco and working at both San Leandro and Fremont Kaiser Hospitals. 

How did you come to recognize the gifts God has given you and how do you seek to represent Christ and image Him through your work?

I think God has always given me a heart for people. My late father was a pastor and he was always doing ministry. Even during his vacation time, he would travel to different churches to preach. As a result, I love working with people and helping them learn and grow. Making the transition from teaching to medicine was seamless, since I have developed lots of patience, listening and communication skills. Now that I work in medicine with Kaiser Permanente, a popular hospital system in California, I’m exposed to all kinds of people in the community. The majority of my work is spent listening to people’s problems, caring for their needs, and ordering the appropriate labs, tests, imaging studies, and medications. Even though I can’t openly share the gospel, my patients do see a difference in me, since I take the extra steps to take care of their needs. They are always super grateful that I take the time to listen to them.  

You made a big jump, transitioning from one career to another. How did you decide to make that change and what were some of the steps you had to make to do so? 

It was definitely a lot of prayer. When I saw my other music teacher coworkers running around trying to find gigs to support themselves financially, I didn’t want that struggle for the rest of my life. I also didn’t want to entertain kids all day but had a deeper passion to do something more significant with my limited time and energy. The switch into medicine wasn’t easy since I had no science background. I got discouraged when I saw how many prerequisites I had to take, even before getting into the program.  

One night I was extremely stressed and God appeared in my dream. I saw two visions. One vision was me holding a rock in my hand and seeing a giant mountain before me. I sensed God speaking to me, saying that I can conquer this mountain one rock at a time. Then I saw another vision where I’m holding a wine glass, doing “cheers” with someone and I see a banner that says “For the Nations.” That’s when I knew that this wasn’t just a career for financial stability; He wanted me to do something significant for Him.   

And sure enough, he opened all doors against all odds. There’s a 5% chance of getting into a PA program and I got accepted at Sullivan University in KY. I passed all my prerequisites with flying colors (except organic chemistry, which was a B) and got enough healthcare hours as a caregiver. The crazy thing was that my sister and her husband live in Kentucky so I was able to have family support during PA school. God is good! 

As someone working in the healthcare industry during an extremely difficult season, how do you prioritize your own personal mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health? What are tips you can share with others who may find themselves in a difficult spot as well? 

Yes, it was extremely difficult during Covid. The patient lines were long, the waiting rooms were packed, and I got tired of listening to people’s problems all day. My urgent care also saw ER level patients because no one wanted to go to the ER because of Covid. It was constant stress. I would always pray for wisdom, strength, and that no one would die so I wouldn’t get sued. But while the struggle was intense I learned to say no when I was asked to pick up extra shifts. I took time to relax. I chilled at the pool with a book or went hiking. I also had good friends I could chat on the phone with, which helped relieve stress. God definitely protected me the whole time. Even though I worked with Covid patients in multiple urgent care settings, I never caught Covid. Praise God! 

If you are going through a rough time, I would encourage you to take time out for self-care and to spend time with God. This can be as easy as going outside for a walk, listening to worship music, reading a book, or getting something delicious to eat. Also seeking out like-minded friends really helps to relieve stress and to have support during difficult times.  

What are some challenges you have experienced in your work and how have you seen God at work around you despite them?  

I’ve definitely had a lot of patients yell at me and call me racist because they were upset or I didn’t give them what they wanted. But I’m glad God kept me and my coworkers safe because I hear stories of patients coming into clinics or hospitals with weapons. I’ve really learned to stay calm and not raise my voice when a patient is yelling at me.  This is hard but it is showing the love of Jesus. Working with people is stressful because everyone has emotional needs and high expectations. The hardest conversations I have these days are discussing biopsy reports with positive cancer diagnosis. It gets difficult and emotional but God always gives me the right words to say. 

How do you keep yourself encouraged that the work you’re doing is valuable and worthwhile when the world tempts women to believe otherwise? Are there any Scriptures God has given you to keep you present in the work to which He has called you?  

I bought a virtual run medal recently that says “It’s a beautiful day to save lives,” because it resonated with my life purpose. Every day, God is calling me to “save” lives, not only physically but also spiritually. I remind myself daily that I’m not placed on this earth to just make money and live comfortably but to expand God’s kingdom. There’s a story about three brick builders that I love. A traveler came upon three bricklayers and asked what each one was doing. One said he was laying bricks, another said he was building a wall, the third one said he was building the Cathedral of God. I’m always reminded of the bigger picture and it’s to glorify God. Galatians 6:9-10 comes to mind, which encourages us to not grow weary but continue to do good. Psalm 90:12 also encourages us to number our days and to really make each day count. Whether you’re flipping burgers, changing diapers, or going through the daily, mundane, not-so-exciting journey of life, remember that God has a greater purpose for you and it’s to show His love and grace to those around you. Working in medicine has really opened my eyes to the hurting world around me. I have realized that everyone is struggling with something. You may be the only source of hope people see, so take the extra step to care, love and listen. That may be enough to bring someone new into God’s kingdom and if that happens, God is glorified.

Have someone in mind you’d like to nominate to be featured on Work Done Well?