Published: March 1, 2021
Three diverse women from HSC’s Master of Health Administration (MHA) program are kicking off Women’s History Month 2021 with a bang, advancing for the first time in the program’s history to the semifinals category of a top North American student case competition.
Graduate scholar case competitions enable students to demonstrate their knowledge, problem-solving skills, business acumen and creativity by developing solutions to real-world health leadership challenges in real time.
HSC team members Kartika Ayyappan, Brett Ironside and Aminata Ka achieved this honor as participants in the recent University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Health Administration Case Competition for graduate students from CAHME-accredited (Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education) programs. The event is designed as a capstone experience for graduate students across the United States and Canada.
The program was held virtually this year, with 42 teams from various universities tasked with the challenge of reimagining and branding healthcare services for a pediatric hospital navigating its way in a new and different COVID-19 world.
Teams were charged with presenting their recommendations on strategy and marketing in a polished 20-minute segment to practicing healthcare executives who are recognized leaders in the field.
Presenting virtually was a new experience this year, successfully pulled off with assistance from the HSC University Studio and Rens Bais serving as videographer and audio engineer.
Safe social distancing was observed, with only one team member on screen at a time and on-screen exits/entrances carefully coordinated. Team members introduced and thanked each other as each one took the HSC “stage,” transitioning smoothly from person to person while following approved COVID-19 protocol.
“We wanted to keep everyone safe and set each other up for success,” Ka said.
Ultimately, HSC’s team would become one of 12 advancing to the semifinals. Judges commended the students on their presentation skills, poise and detailed knowledge of the case and their recommendations. The strong relationship between the team members was also noted by the judges.
“Because we know each other so well and trust each other, it makes presenting even under less-than-ideal circumstances so much easier,” Ayyappan said.
Ironside, who attended this case competition last year, served as this year’s HSC team leader.
“Having attended the UAB Case Competition as an observer last year, my experience this time around as a competitor was even more meaningful,” she said.
“With hard work and dedication, I’m proud that we were able to successfully deliver a presentation that was representative of our education and individual areas of interest.”
As one who “had the pleasure of being on the sidelines, watching as these three students prepared for multiple case competitions this academic year,” HSC MHA Program Director Dr. Stephan Davis said, “It has been amazing to see their growth, and I could not be more proud.”
Dr. Arthur Mora, HSC Chair of the Department of Health Behavior and Health Systems, also expressed appreciation for the team’s efforts during an especially challenging time in Texas.
“Despite the catastrophic impacts of a history-making winter storm in the days leading up to the competition, including a week of power outages and disruption of water services across many communities in our state, these young professionals showed such determination to compete and succeed at a highly competitive national event, representing HSC admirably,” he said.
All three students were also part of the HSC winning team in last October’s American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) North Texas Chapter Case Competition. Ironside and Ka also participated in the National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE) Case Competition in September. They credit their success in subsequent case competitions in part to the rigorous preparation they went through with external judges during the fall semester, including one of the MHA program’s Executives in Residence, Ajith Pai, PharmD, MBA, FACHE, who serves as President of Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Cleburne.
“I knew right from the start that these MHA students were going places. I’m not surprised at all that they were semifinalists in the UAB Case Competition – they are so talented and hard-working,” Dr. Pai said.
All three students are on schedule to graduate in May 2021 and have met the criteria for induction into Upsilon Phi Delta, the honor society for health administration.