Fleming Center students make their case

The Fleming Center's MGMA Texas Gulf Coast regional case competition winning team: (from left to right) Mrudula Nair, Jessica Baldwin, Jordan Williams and Kim Rokyta.
The Fleming Center's MGMA Texas Gulf Coast regional case competition winning team: (from left to right) Mrudula Nair, Jessica Baldwin, Jordan Williams and Kim Rokyta.

HOUSTON – You’re standing in front of a panel of respected judges, all waiting to hear what you and your teammates have to say. The pressure is on. It’s your turn to make your case. Can you win them over with your plan?

Sound exciting?

Welcome to the world of case competitions — where teams of students race against the clock to develop the best solution to a business-related case study. They’re a great way for students to showcase their teamwork, leadership and management skills.

Here at UTHealth School of Public Health, the Fleming Center for Healthcare Management hosts its own case competition every spring, and healthcare management students are encouraged to participate in local and national competitions, focused on healthcare, throughout the year.

And new this academic year — healthcare management students may participate in multiple case competitions as a part of their required capstone course. The competitions are excellent preparation for the workplace. Competing students tackle realistic problems they are likely to face at work, learn to think on their feet and present business plans to leaders in their field.

Healthcare management team takes top honors

In November, the UTHealth School of Public Health healthcare management team took first place in the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) Texas Gulf Coast regional case competition.

The team, comprised of Jessica Baldwin, Mrudula Nair, Kim Rokyta and Jordan Williams, had two weeks to develop a plan for affordable long-term senior care, divvying up tasks according to expertise. Baldwin, the team lead for the competition and a research coordinator, conducted background research and identified competitors providing senior care services. Nair, who has a background in epidemiology, provided demographics. Rokyta drew on her clinical background to form a plan for care coordination. And Williams, an analyst for a healthcare company, ran the financials.

“We all brought something to the table that was a distinct skill, and I think that’s what helped us do well in the competition,” Baldwin says.

Williams and Ryan Strittmatter at the National Association of Health Services Executives case competition.
Williams and Ryan Strittmatter at the National Association of Health Services Executives case competition.

The winning plan

The team proposed building a transitional care program for patients enrolled in the Medicare Advantage plan operated by multispecialty care clinic Kelsey-Seybold, with an emphasis on Fort Bend County — one of the fastest growing and most diverse counties in Texas. For a small additional premium of $10 a month ($120 a year) seniors would have access to short- and long-term care planning, mental health and home health, allowing them to stay at home independently longer.

The team showed that their plan would be significantly less expensive than nursing homes, which can cost up to $72,000 a year in Texas, as well as in-home care services and adult day care. Their solid proposal and presentation won them the competition and the $1,000 prize.

“This was a wonderful opportunity to interact and work with a diverse group of people with unique skillsets,” says Nair of working with the team. “As an epidemiology student, I appreciated the opportunity to interact and collaborate with students from other majors.”

A unique, real-world experience

The competition was a first for both Nair and Rokyta. Both Williams and Baldwin competed last year. Williams also participated in the National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE) competition in October, competing against 30 teams from healthcare management programs across the country.

Williams says he appreciates the option to participate in a case competition as part of the capstone class.

“While some projects are more theoretical, in a case competition they give you a real issue that doesn’t have a solution yet,” Williams says. “Once we graduate, we are most likely going to run into the same kind of issues in the workplace.”