First annual Health Administration Case Competition enjoys success

FHA president Megan Coakley EJB ’18 with first place team members Kenny Jiang, Sophia Frank, InYoung Lee, Mary Girgis and Marissa Lalama. All are Bloustein School health administration majors.

Megan Coakley EJB ’18 contributed to this article.

The Future Healthcare Administrators and the Bloustein School held the first Case Study Competition on April 14. The competition encouraged students to use the information learned in class and apply that knowledge to real-world scenarios in order to solve problems present in today’s workplaces and communities.

FHA was organized at Rutgers shortly after the introduction of the Bloustein School’s undergraduate major in health administration began enrolling students in 2016. The organization is designed to help students interested in pursuing careers in the healthcare industry network with their peers and with current leaders in healthcare, according to Bloustein School associate teaching professor and FHA advisor Ann Marie Hill.

Interim Dean Michael Greenberg noted that case competitions provide hands-on, realistic simulation of what it is like to face real-world healthcare problems in a competitive and challenging environment. “Our students needed to use critical thinking, complex decision making and innovative problem solving to identify the best possible solutions,” he said. “This was a perfect learning experience to offer our students.”

With that mission in mind, the FHA executive board decided that an experiential learning opportunity, such as a case study, would be a great way for members to gain real-world experience in dealing with problems plaguing the healthcare industry. “We decided to pursue a case study competition because it would allow our members to practice working together as a team of professionals to accomplish a higher goal, as well as showcase their professionalism and ideas to leaders in the industry,” said Megan Coakley, FHA president.

In order to achieve their goals, the FHA board worked throughout the academic year to organize, prepare and publicize the event. The support of the Bloustein School, who co-sponsored the program this program, Hill, and Greenberg enabled FHA to build a successful program and fully realize the scope of this endeavor. “Partnering with EJB really gave us the tools and connections necessary to invite industry leaders to serve as judges for the program,” said Coakley.

“I am very proud of the how the members FHA put this event together for the benefit of our undergraduate students,” said Ray Caprio, University Professor and director of the Bloustein School’s undergraduate program. “I am also pleased with how well our students did in the competition. Every team came up with excellent solutions to really challenging issues. Very impressive performances by all were had!”

Once the basics of the event, including venue, invitations to prospective judges, and competition format were in place, the students began to work on getting participants for the competition. It was decided that the competition focus would be on undergraduate students. While open to the entire Rutgers community, each team of 3-5 members would be required to have at least one member enrolled in a Bloustein School undergraduate program.

With a tentative goal of 10 teams, the organizers were pleased to receive 13 applications for the event. Participants included students from first years through seniors. In addition to health administration and public health students, a wide array of majors were represented including biology, pre-med, nursing, business, finance, human resource management, exercise science, and psychology. On the day of the event, the teams were introduced to the case and given a 3-hour window in which to construct their solutions. Following a networking lunch and introduction of the nine-judge panel, each team had approximately 15 minutes to present their solutions.

Each group was asked to assess the situation of Memorial Hospital, a newly built facility that is the combination of two hospitals in a relatively populated (20,000 residents) area. Due to a recent downgrade of the hospital by Moody’s and the growth of competition in the region from other health systems in the state, the Board of the hospital is concerned about their future and has asked for recommendations for correction.

After tallying up the scores, the judges announced the five-person team, composed of health administration majors, as the winner. In Young Lee, Kenny Jiang, Marissa Lalama, Sophia Frank, and Mary Girgis offered a comprehensive analysis of the situation and made recommendations to generate revenues, reduce costs, improve leadership/management and launch an innovative marketing campaign to turn around the situation. Second place went to the team of these students, Eshan Kaul (pre-med), Asraar Naseer (finance/computer science), Yesha Parekh (cell biology/anatomy/pre-med) and Riley Link (public health) and third place to Kathryn Riman (public health/nursing), Tranum Gumber (nursing), and Rishi Desai (public health).

“It was refreshing to see the next generation of healthcare leaders and healthcare thinkers tackle pertinent and relevant challenges. To have a team work together on finance, workforce retention, information technology and population health at the same time is something that healthcare executives are faced with daily,” said Karteek Bhavsar, Vice President of Administration at The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, NJ. “The teams worked on these topics in a professional and comprehensive manner. Decisions on safety, quality, value, and patient satisfaction must always be made, and I am relieved to know that the next generation of healthcare professionals take these topics to heart when making recommendations. Their knowledge base of the topics was evident, but their approaches to problem-solving and teamwork were even more commendable.”

The panel of judges also included Michael Dubouis, Assistant Vice President for Business Development at RWJUH Somerset; Vanessa D. Smith, Vice President of Human Resources at Community Medical Center; Kimyatter Washington, Vice President and Director of Oncology Services at RWJBarnabas Health; Larisa Goganza, Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, Mainland Division; Thomas W. Scott, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at CentraState Health System; Patricia Keenan, Assistant Director at Essex County Hospital Center; Atiya Jaha-Rashidi, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center & Children’s Hospital of NJ; and Michael McDonough, Bloustein School Associate Professor of Teaching.

“I am unbelievably grateful to have been given the opportunity to leave my mark on Rutgers and on the Bloustein School through the creation of this program. After reflecting on the competition, my time as president of FHA, and as a senior at the Bloustein School, I believe the success of the competition is really a testament to the way the school and professors help to nurture and grow their students. We are encouraged to take on responsibilities and to leave whatever we are involved in better than the way we were given it,” said Megan.

“I have had so much success and have learned so much in my time as a Bloustein student and I am happy to have been able to start something that will give other students a chance to grow, learn, and strengthen their own potential as future leaders in the healthcare industry.”