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MHSA Student Team Represents UAMS Well at National Competition

(left to right) Nikki Gray, Hailey Hundley, Holly Giblin

(left to right) Nikki Gray, Hailey Hundley, Holly Giblin

It has been four years since the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences fielded a team at the National Healthcare Case Competition sponsored by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, but the performance of three Master’s in Health Services Administration (MHSA) students representing the UAMS Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health (COPH) drew praise from the judges and made their faculty mentors proud.

With eligibility limited to students currently enrolled in health administration programs accredited by the Commission for Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME), the 35 teams at the event represented some of the nation’s top universities. The competition, now in its eighth year, drew 200 participants from the U.S. and Canada.

Seniors Holly Giblin, Nikki Gray and Hailey Hundley comprised the UAMS team. They were accompanied by their faculty coaches from the COPH Department of Health Policy and Management – Stephen Bowman, PhD, MHA, associate professor and director of the MHSA program, and Michael Morris, MPH, MPA, instructor.

The challenge issued to the contestants three weeks before they arrived in Birmingham was to analyze and form recommendations on an assigned healthcare business case. This year’s case involved a real situation currently facing the largest provider of hospice services in the Washington, D.C., area. The company was interested in finding ways to expand its market share and transform its unprofitable tele-care services into a source of new income.

The teams were expected to develop a business plan and financial model and then present them to a panel of judges, comprised of nationally prominent healthcare executives, at the completion. Among the judges was a vice president from Capital Caring the organization on which the case study was focused.

“Hailey, Holly and Nikki did a fabulous job with a very tough case that revolved around a sector of the healthcare industry that is very rapidly growing but not that well understood even among seasoned healthcare executives,” Morris said. “While the team did not advance to the final rounds, their presentation excited the judges, bringing praise for their use of several key elements in their business plan that no other team recognized in their proposals.”

“The judges were particularly excited by how integral our team made addressing racial health disparities in hospice use, and their innovative plan to capitalize on existing organizational relationships with Howard University Health Systems to reduce hospital readmissions and enhance end of life care for the underserved populations in the D.C. area. The vice president of executive development for the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), was particularly complimentary in her evaluation of this portion of our team’s presentation.”

Hundley said that preparing for case was “without a doubt, the most challenging project” she has undertaken as an MHSA student. But, “despite the stress, late nights, and bouts of discouragement,” she said that the “competition was a rewarding experience overall. We were able to showcase our knowledge and creativity as we ultimately developed a workable solution to real-world problem. Although we did not place, I am pleased to know that UAMS MHSA students are capable of producing a business proposal on par with some of the greatest hospital administration programs in the nation.”

Bowman also had high praise for the UAMS team’s performance.

“Holly, Hailey and Nikki were right on the mark with their content, analysis and business plan,” Bowman said. “With just a few more days to polish the presentation further, I have no doubt that they would have been in the finals.”

UAMS will be at Birmingham next year, but Giblin, Gray and Hundley graduate this May so won’t be part of the competition. Leading next year’s team will be MHSA students Stewart Clark and Aaron Pilkington, who attended the competition as observers this year.

The MHSA program at UAMS prepares students for managerial careers and leadership positions in health care organizations such as hospitals, medical group practices, and insurance companies. The program is nationally accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) and has over 300 alumni. For more information, contact Richard Ault, MHSA, associate director of the program, at RJAult@uams.edu