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Dr. Schuler’s Exclusive Interview with Neurologist Dr. Clarence Li

Authored by Dr. Thomas Schuler, MD, FACS, FAAOS, Dr. Clarence Li, MD. March 15, 2022

Watching Virginia Spine Institute (VSI) grow as it has since I founded it 30 years ago is one of the most exciting and rewarding parts of my job. There have been so many transformations in the cutting-edge, innovative care we provide patients, the number of patients we help around the globe, and also growth in our amazing staff who provides unparalleled, concierge care to 100,000 patients and counting. 

One sign of that growth is when we bring on new doctors. Dr. Clarence Li is our newest physician at VSI. He’s a board-certified neurologist who sub-specializes in pain medicine and he offers incredible care to patients with low back and neck pain, chronic pain and headache disorders, and a variety of other neurologic conditions including peripheral neuropathy, stroke, and movement disorders. I’ve gotten to know him quite well as we’ve onboarded him and I’m excited for you all to do that too. So I sat down with him recently to talk about his passion, his work, and his plans for patients now that he’s joining us at VSI. 

Dr. Schuler: Dr. Li, we are thrilled to have you join our ranks at VSI. We have the most incredible patients who trust us to get them back to doing what they love. We are leading the way with innovative approaches with technology and non-invasive techniques to provide that care. So tell me – what conditions do you enjoy treating most? And why?

Dr. Li: Dr. Schuler, I am so happy to be joining this world-class practice. I am fortunate in that the conditions I see the most are the ones that are the most enjoyable to treat.  I appreciate the ever-expanding treatment options that are available for patients with chronic pain and headaches.  It is truly a privilege to be able to work with patients and watch as they improve over time. 

Dr. Schuler: What is your treatment philosophy?

Dr. Li: I am a believer in a multifaceted approach to treating pain and neurologic disorders that allow for patients to not only benefit from what I am able to offer in terms of medications or procedures but also empower them to take control and manage their own condition. That’s really what it’s all about. 

Dr. Schuler: How does your approach differ from other neurologists?

Dr. Li: My background incorporates a multidisciplinary approach to treating pain as well as the ability to perform image-guided procedures that aren’t so typically performed by neurologists.  This blends with my neurology background and knowledge of the central and peripheral nervous system to create a holistic approach to treatment.

Dr. Schuler: So let people know – what are some of the most common ways you treat or diagnose?

Dr. Li: Electromyography or EMG, nonsurgical image-guided injections, and radiofrequency nerve ablations are some examples. 

Dr. Schuler: At VSI we pride ourselves on our unparalleled patient care and that includes a unique approach to meeting with a new patient for the first time. How do you assess patients in that first meeting and craft a treatment plan and next steps?

Dr. Li: When I meet with a patient for an initial evaluation, I believe that the most important part of the meeting is listening to the patient about their condition, where it affects them, and how it affects their life.  Physical examination, laboratory investigations, and imaging studies certainly can help narrow things down, but really listening to the patient is crucial to developing that initial treatment plan.  Most conditions I see are treated over time, and it’s important that the patient understands that we are approaching treating their condition as a team.

Dr. Schuler: Our ability to communicate is critical for the concierge care we provide. What is yours like with patients? 

Dr. Li: My communication style incorporates shared decision-making with the patient.  In neurology and in pain medicine, there is rarely a clear-cut answer to the patient’s condition, and I rely on forming a therapeutic partnership with my patients to determine what they are comfortable trying as well as what treatments have been working for them and what has been less successful.

Dr. Schuler: Okay – let’s wrap up with two more personal questions. What made you decide to become a doctor and more specifically, a neurologist? 

Dr. Li: Being a doctor is an honor and a privilege, and I am truly humbled by the ability to positively change people’s lives for the better.  Neurology has been appealing to me because it is a specialty that relies heavily on getting to know a patient and using key pieces of information that they provide me to develop a diagnosis and treatment plan to improve their condition. 

Dr. Schuler: General wellness is another big focus here – not only for our patients but for all of us who work at VSI. So  – when you aren’t working, how do you spend your time?

Dr. Li: I spend a lot of time outdoors. My main form of exercise is rock climbing at a local place, and I love to cycle as well. When it’s nice out, you can find me hiking on trails as well. 

Dr. Schuler: Dr. Li – we’re so excited to have you here as an integral part of our interdisciplinary model at VSI. People can learn more about you by connecting with you on LinkedIn or scheduling a consultation with you here at Virginia Spine Institute. 

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