The History of “Histories”

Sue Li always knew she was going to be a writer.

“I’ve been sort of writing my whole life,” she says. “Ever since I was a kid, I was always writing short stories in my notebook.”

Growing up as an only child who emigrated from China into the United States at the age of four, she often visited the library and could always be found with her head in a book—transporting herself to new worlds almost daily. Her frequent library visits also instilled in her a desire to have her own book on the shelf one day. 

During her tenure at Yale University, where she majored in Literature, she became a mentee of Anne Fadiman, author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down—a relationship, which inspired her to not only pursue a career in writing, but to focus it on medicine.

Now, as a student at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS), the connection between medicine and writing has become ever clearer. “Medicine itself… literally has its own language. You spend time learning the language: the terminology of all [these] diagnoses,” she explains.

This discovery, while in medical school, is what initially sparked Sue’s interest in writing Histories— a collection of essays and interviews about individuals’ motivations for becoming a medical professional—her first published book.

“I wanted to share a little bit of what it’s like being a medical student,” she says, “especially [one] early on in my career: the doubts, the hopes, and the fears that we have at that point, and to be able to share [them] not only with my colleagues but with people outside of medicine.”

As she navigates her way through her final year at ISMMS and prepares for residency, she recognizes medicine as a collaborative art and is grateful for the support of her team: family, friends, and the administration at the Icahn School of Medicine, who have all been integral to her journey of becoming a physician writer.

Histories is an award-winning publication, conferred by Arch Street Press. Sue recently interviewed with Arch Street Press about her journey to medicine, her 2016 Arch Street Prize win, and her future pursuits. You can listen to the full interview below.



Sue Li graduated from Yale University with a BA in English, having completed the Writing Concentration in nonfiction. She is now a fourth-year medical student at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, where she has been able to combine her passion for medicine with her love of words.

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