Why did you choose Healthcare Policy and Research at Weill Cornell?

After completing my Bachelors degree (Biology) from University of California, SanDiego, I was at Northeastern University in Boston doing a summer program and was looking for more research opportunities — including a strong academic rigor around how to perform research and how to think like a researcher. So I started looking at graduate programs at institutions like Cornell and Columbia, as I knew I wanted to stay around Boston or New York City.

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I remember the first time I talked to Dr. Rainu Kaushal, the chair of Healthcare Policy & Research at Weill Cornell Medicine: she emailed me to tell me about the program about six months before I applied. I was so excited about everything that I learned about the program and kept in touch with her over those six months. Hearing about her expertise, as well as that of the other faculty I spoke with, truly solidified my desire to attend Weill Cornell.

I also liked that the program was new, so I could come in and really mold it for myself. It was just perfect for me!

What do you currently do for work?

I am currently Director of Data and Analytics for SeniorLink, a healthcare startup based in Boston, Massachusetts. In my current role, I am in charge of developing the department’s analytics reporting for the entire company.

Our mission is to work with alternatives to nursing homes through in-home healthcare and to provide a technology for caregivers to more effectively do their job — empowering and advocating for them. SeniorLink has about 300 employees in six states, with about 4,000 Medicare and Medicaid patient consumers. So you can see how important data and analytics are to us!

How did you find your current job?

I was at McKinsey prior to my current job, and was there full-time during grad school as well. A connection at McKinsey told me about “this startup in Boston,” so I decided to take a chance and apply for it. Apparently, someone who saw my application really thought I’d be a nice fit and decided to check me out online. She came across my LinkedIn profile, where I had recently posted my thesis from Weill Cornell on readmission rates and hospitalization for Medicare consumers. As SeniorLink works directly with Medicare and Medicaid patients, they really found my research to be of interest and value. People kept asking about my thesis while I was interviewing, and I really think that was one of the reasons I got this job.

Dr. Jung and Dr. Unruh, as well as everyone else in the program, really helped me with the planning for my thesis. They were all so supportive of me and my work — it was really refreshing!

What was the best part about Weill Cornell?

Ah! There are so many things. I just really, honestly loved the professors. I have never felt so supported, especially coming from such a big school as an undergrad, so I was really looking for a grad program where the classes were much smaller and people could pay more attention. Even though I work with select professors, I would get advice and feedback from everyone on staff — what I needed to focus on, what worked well, what didn’t — and it was just really, really nice to get that feedback and constructive criticism. And those very same professors still help me now, after graduation, still keeping in touch with me. The classes were amazing and challenging — and of course, I learned so much about healthcare policy and research and its many different iterations.

How was living and studying in New York City?

In California, there was a lot of focus in healthcare and so I became more interested while an undergrad. There’s this one system, Kaiser, that really ran everything, and everyone else seemed to grow around it. So I really wanted to be in a state where the policy makers were impacting the government — very quickly, and at the forefront of everything. So I felt like Massachusetts was the place to do that — because at that time, it was the only state with universal healthcare. But when I moved to NYC, there really was this entrepreneurial environment and in the past few years it’s really taken off! There are a lot of startups, conferences, and events — there’s just this energy about something building and growing, and you know there’s this potential, there’s this budding entrepreneurial energy that’s going on. And I was looking for that. Coming from California, especially the Bay Area, that’s something that we thrive and live on. It’s there in Boston, but it’s very siloed and more focused on biotechnology. So it was really nice to see more focus in NYC on healthcare policy, data and informatics, and in working with the multitude of medical institutions and organizations that are there.

What advice would you give students considering Weill Cornell Medicine compared to other programs?

I would say that you should not be afraid of taking your passion and following it — even if it’s the wrong thing. I think it’s better to just pick a direction, take a chance, take a risk — and go for it, rather than just living in this fear and not doing anything because you think you may be wrong.

At Weill Cornell, there’s a lot of emphasis on entrepreneurialism and innovation. Everyone is connected and doing something inventive and big. And now with Cornell Tech right next door, there’s a lot of collaboration. Cornell Tech students are joining with master’s students and medical students, and this cross-pollination and energy of cross-functional entrepreneurship is really creating something more innovative than we’ve ever seen.

If you had to tell one story about Weill Cornell, your job, or your graduation: what would it be?

My husband — fiancé at the time — had no intentions to go to grad school, until I started taking classes. It was at that time that he saw how much I loved it. So he started to consider getting his MBA, and I guess when I was writing my thesis he had nothing better to do because he was so bored! So we would go to the library together and while I was working on my thesis he was studying for the GRE. Fast forward to today, he just graduated from Cornell Tech!

I really liked it. I thought since the program was so new, there was a lot of things you can influence. People are really interested in learning what the students want, and what the students need. It’s nice to see that, and it’s so nice to be involved in that evolution.