University at Albany

Q & A with Susan Xu, MPA '08

If you had to condense your job description into an elevator pitch, how would it read?

Susan: I am a senior research analyst at the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), a nonprofit organization that represents the academic medical community — medical schools and teaching hospitals. I am known by my colleagues as "the data person" — someone who translates policy (e.g., regulations and legislation) into numbers or dollars in support of AAMC's research, policy development and advocacy.

What about your job inspires/excites you every day?

Susan: I am excited every day to work on issues that have large impact — issues that affect hundreds of our member institutions and through them touch the lives of millions of people. Every day I gain another perspective of how health policy is developed. My everyday excitement also comes from working with and learning from exceptional leaders and talented colleagues at AAMC.

How did Rockefeller College prepare you for your career?

Susan: Rockefeller College prepared me — an international student — to land my first job in health policy in the U.S. I benefited greatly from the wide range of courses offered not only at Rockefeller, but also at the University at Albany's other schools. It allowed me to pursue three study concentrations: health policy, finance, and IT management. For example, based on what I learned in a government and nonprofit fiscal class at Rockefeller, a class on Medicare payment policy at the School of Public Health, and studies through the Center for Technology in Government related to evaluating the public return on government IT investment, I published my first research paper in the U.S. before I even graduated. The professors at Rockefeller rock! Not only did they make classes intellectual and engaging, they pushed me to be the best I could be. I wouldn't have gotten published without the encouragement of a professor who set that goal for me. 

My internship and the alumni network provided me with an important entre into the field of health policy. I interned at a small healthcare association that actually collaborated with my first employer on many issues. When I interviewed for my first post-degree job, my colleagues took turns reaching out to their acquaintances to recommend me. Professor David Liebschutz, who led the career center at that time, also connected me with alumni working at the organization I was applying to. Looking back, I am where I am because of these people who believed in me and went out of their way to help me.      

What is one piece of advice you would share with a current Rockefeller student?

Susan: Be persistent. It was a lesson I learned from my nephew when he was seven months old. It was at a time when I felt frustrated with the quality of my American English after applying so much effort. My nephew was trying to grasp small crackers and shove them into his mouth using his fingers. For about 10 minutes, though, every time he held the cracker near his mouth, it fell from his fingers. He cried until his mother fed him the cracker and then resumed his practice. I took this lesson and did not give up on my first publication. After I received the printed article with my name on it, I went to thank the professor who set a seemingly unreachable goal for me. He replied, "See, there is no magic, purely hard work."

When you're not on the job, where can you be found?

Susan: You may catch me at Barnes & Noble or Bayou Bakery in Arlington reading a book or daydreaming. If you visit the National Mall on the weekend, we may run into each other. Many of my weekends start with a long walk from Arlington Cemetery all the way to the National Gallery of Art.