MHA Team Takes First Place at Case Competition

By Amy Widner

Case competition participants are asked to apply classroom knowledge to solve a real-world problem facing a health care organization. They must not only develop a strategy and implementation plan, but argue their case in front of a panel of judges made up of health care leaders.

The team of second-year MHA students won in their division at the University of Kansas Health Administration Regional Case Competition on Nov. 4 at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas.

Students around table

First- and second-year MHA students take a break from the case competition, held Nov. 4 at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.

The competition was for universities that offer MHA degrees and was an invitation-only event. The teams could consist of up to four students. There are preliminary elimination rounds followed by a final round in which the top-three teams compete for the win.

The team was made up of Cole Pace, Adnan Siddique, Booth Owens and Chase Cooper. They were coached by Saleema Karim, Ph.D., MBA, MHA; and Michael Morris, Ph.D., MPH, MPA, both assistant professors in the Department of Health Policy and Management.

“The most important thing I learned was how crucial collaboration will be to my future,” Pace said. “In an industry as ever-changing as health care, it could not be more important to learn to work as part of a team. UAMS’ MHA program prepared us for that reality, and we excelled in the competition because we care about each other’s success as much as we care about our own.”

“It is nice for the students to get that external validation that they know what they’re doing,” Karim said. “We know they’re great, but now they can see that they’re just as competitive as all the other schools. It’s confidence-building for them.”

Group shot of students

Both the first- and second-year teams of UAMS MHA students take a group photo at the case competition. Pictured are, from left, Adnan Siddique, Cole Pace, Chase Cooper, Booth Owens, Nicole Breaux, Nancy Gail Purnell, Rebecca Gray and Daniel McFarland.

This year’s case asked the teams to develop a strategic plan to better position the University of Kansas Medical Center’s primary care services to compete in a value-based environment. Morris said that the UAMS team was so well prepared that at one point one of the judges asked them if they were the home team from Kansas, an assumption the judge made because of the detailed knowledge the students displayed about the issues facing health care in Kansas.

In addition, such events serve as networking opportunities for participants. Morris said the students have already gotten emails from one of the judges to discuss career opportunities with her firm.

A team of UAMS first-year MHA students also competed in a separate division at the event, making it to the final round. They were Rebecca Gray, Nicole Breaux, Daniel McFarland and Nancy Gail Purnell.

Gray said her first taste of the competition made her eager to work hard and improve for next year’s competition.

“Witnessing the success of both the first- and second-year teams during the competition made me proud to be a student of the MHA program at UAMS,” Gray said. “It is apparent that UAMS offers a first-rate education and that we are being prepared to address real-world challenges.”

In spring 2016, a UAMS team finished 17th in the Cleveland Clinic Case Competition, competing against the best MHA and MBA programs in the United States and internationally.

Morris said that many MHA programs have been participating in case competitions for decades, but UAMS only began competing three years ago.

“In that short time, our students have become a regional leader and highly competitive at the national level,” Morris said. “This competitiveness of the UAMS MHA program is also reflected in the outstanding success of our graduates in obtaining postgraduate health care fellowships at top health care organizations throughout the country.”