Two in one week: HPM students take first prize at NAHSE, Humana case competitions

October 18, 2012
Five health policy and management students had a lot to celebrate during the weekend of Oct. 11-12. Their efforts at competitive events in Louisville, Ky., and Houston yielded two first-place awards, $17,000 in prizes and Schoolwide excitement and pride at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health.
From left to right are Jordan McInernery, Richard Hallquist (MBA program), Marissa Noles and Joe Patoka (MBA program).

From left to right are Jordan McInernery, Richard Hallquist (MBA program), Marissa Noles and Joe Patoka (MBA program).

Jordan McInerney and Marissa Noles took first prize at the second annual Humana Case Competition, held Oct. 11-12 in Louisville. McInerney, second-year Master of Health Administration student, and Noles, second-year Master of Science in Public Health and Master of Business Administration (MBA) student, collaborated with Richard Hallquist and Joe Patoka, MBA students at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. The team was awarded $10,000.

Students were asked to present a case offering an optimal combination of technology and care delivery that could improve Humana patients’ care quality while containing costs. The UNC team recommended an integrated home telehealth system that offered a simple health-monitoring tool, the Health Buddy, to certain of Humana’s Medicare Advantage members. They also proposed leveraging Humana’s recent purchase of a powerful analytics engine, Anvita, to synthesize data, allowing for better recommendations and improvement of outcomes over time.

More than 40 teams from graduate schools all over the country competed. Students were given about 72 hours to develop recommendations and submit a presentation. UNC’s was one of eight groups selected for the Louisville competition and then was selected to face Duke University in the final round.

“Our success in the competition is a testament to the unsurpassed education we’re receiving through the MHA program at UNC,” McInerney said. “The curriculum’s emphasis on team-based learning and case methodology fully prepared us to compete against the likes of Fuqua and Harvard Business School teams.”

Noles said there were many valuable lessons learned from the experience. “One of the most valuable take-aways was the level of success we were able to achieve by having a strong, collaborative team and building on each other’s strengths,” she said. “We worked incredibly well together, and I learned so much from each of my teammates’ contributions in addition to learning about my own abilities and leadership style.”

Shown left to right are first place NAHSE case competition team members LeVelton Thomas, Jessica Johnson, Christina Lomax and adviser Jeffrey Simms, MSPH

Shown left to right are first place NAHSE case competition team members LeVelton Thomas, Jessica Johnson, Christina Lomax and adviser Jeffrey Simms, MSPH

Jessica Johnson, LeVelton Thomas and Christina Lomax, second-year Master of Healthcare Administration students at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, took first place at the National Association of Health Services Executives’ (NAHSE) 17th annual Everett V. Fox Student Case Competition, held Oct. 9-12 in Houston. Each took home a $4,000 prize.

Their case, “The Mercy PLUS Difference: An Integrated Approach to the Care of our Patients,” required the team to partner with an insurance company in Ohio to develop an Integrated Care Delivery System (ICDS) to better serve the needs of dual-eligible patients, i.e., those elderly or disabled persons who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid.

Their case deliverables included a care coordination model for dual-eligible patients, a partnership model with one or both payors (insurance company) in the region, and a creative financial model that included Medicare and Medicaid funding.

Twenty teams from around the country participated at the event, which was attended by more than 400 senior executives. Ohio State University placed second; George Washington University placed third.

Johnson said she was thrilled with the collaboration of her teammates. “During the three weeks of preparation, we spent our time conducting industry research and familiarizing ourselves with our client,” she said. “We wanted to ensure that our business proposal took all stakeholders and healthcare values into consideration.”

“This experience was one of the greatest learning opportunities we could ask for,” said Lomax. “It gave us practical experience to work through a real-life healthcare problem with aggressive deadlines.”

Thomas was appreciative of the resources at UNC’s public health school that allowed the students to feel well-prepared for the competition. “The MHA program at UNC prepared us extremely well for the case competition. We were able to apply aspects from marketing, strategy, finance, policy and consulting courses to develop a polished, final product,” he said.

“What a wonderful week for our health policy and management students, said Peggy Leatt, PhD, professor and chair of the health policy and management department. “The department is very proud of our 2012 NAHSE and Humana teams and their performances this year. These competitions afford our students a real-life opportunity to apply skills and competencies gained during their graduate education. Each year, we look forward to participating in the competition and supporting our students in these professional development experiences.”

The Humana Case Competition is designed to engage graduate students in relevant business innovations associated with the ever changing dynamics of the health care industry. Students compete using critical thinking, strategic and innovation skills to develop a viable business solution to a current and real health care challenge. Students have the opportunity to network with Humana’s top executives and company associates, tour Humana’s headquarters and learn more about Humana’s innovation initiatives.

The National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE) is a nonprofit association of black health care executives founded in 1968 for the purpose of promoting the advancement and development of black health care leaders and elevating the quality of health care services rendered to minority and underserved communities. Since its inception, NAHSE has sponsored and participated in local and national programs and projects designed to improve quality, access and availability to health services and to expand educational opportunities in the field of health services administration.




UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: Linda Kastleman, communications editor, (919) 966-8317 or