Faculty Spotlight – Ronald Li, DVM, MVetMed, PhD, DACVECC

Dr. Ronald Li recently joined the Emergency and Critical Care Service as an assistant professor. He graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College (University of Guelph) in 2009 and completed a rotating internship in Toronto, Canada. Dr. Li then went on to pursue an emergency and critical care residency and a Master of Veterinary Medicine degree at the Royal Veterinary College in 2011. He became a Diplomate of American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care in 2014. Dr. Li received his Ph.D. from UC Davis in December 2017.

Get to know Dr. Li…
What attracted you to a position at UC Davis?
The Emergency and Critical Care Service is the first of its kind in the world. UC Davis also has a world-renowned reputation in research and teaching. Its emphasis on One Health approach offers young clinician scientists like myself boundless opportunities for clinical and basic science research.

What is the most rewarding part of your work?
Being able to teach veterinary students who inspire me to become a better educator and clinician on a daily basis.

What was one of your most memorable cases?
I was the resident in the ICU treating a 4-year-old springer spaniel that was diagnosed with polyradiculoneuritis which had severely affected his ability to breathe properly. We had to manage the patient on the mechanical ventilator for 14 days. The patient was finally discharged after being in the hospital for 30 days!

Are you working on any research projects? 
My laboratory is collaborating with the Stern Cardiogenetics Laboratory to study the pharmacogenetics and pharmodynamics of clopidogrel, an antiplatelet drug commonly prescribed to cats with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. We have recently discovered a mutation in cats that can affect their ability to respond to this drug causing drug resistance which can predispose them to a life-threatening complication called aortic thromboembolism. Findings of this study will allow clinicians to implement rational anticoagulant therapy in cats with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

My other area of interest is the immune function of platelets in dogs and cats. We recently discovered that dog platelets can respond to the bacterial toxin, lipopolysaccaride, by expressing a special receptor called Toll-like Receptor 4. We are currently investigating how activation of this receptor can influence platelet function during bacterial infection and how early inhibition of this receptor with antiplatelet drugs or its signaling pathway may help dogs with overwhelming bacterial infection. 

Finally, I am also collaborating with Dr. Fern Tablin and the Center for Equine Health in investigating the effects of the bacterial toxin, endotoxins, in horses. Specifically, we are interested in how horses respond to endotoxins by producing neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs). We believe that overproduction of NETs can negatively impact their ability to survive overwhelming bacterial infections. Early intervention to decrease NETs production may be a novel therapeutic strategy in horses with colics or life-threatening bacterial infection.

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