Students place highly in health administration competition

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State students in the master of health administration (MHA) program were selected as finalists (top five out of 37 teams) in the eighth annual University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) Health Administration Case Competition. Students Jared Stanger, Yamini Kalidindi and Keerthana Rajagopal, with Kevin Hawkins as alternate, participated in the competition, which was held Feb. 26-28.

The UAB Health Administration Case Competition provides graduate students from health administration programs that are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation Healthcare Management Education an opportunity to put what they have learned into practice with a real-life, real-time case. It is designed to be a capstone experience. Each year, student teams from around the country travel to Birmingham, Ala., to present their recommendations before a national team of judges. The first-, second- and third-place teams receive cash awards.

"This year's case team, led by Jarred Stanger, reflected all of the attributes of what a team is all about," said Rick Shurgalla, director of professional development in the Department of Health Policy and Administration, the home department of the MHA program, and the team's academic adviser. "They didn't always agree with one another, whether it be strategy or presentation styles, but they always respected each others' viewpoints and, as a result, they prepared an incredible end product."

The competition this year focused on Capital Caring in Washington, D.C., one of the largest and oldest hospices in the nation. In particular, it focused on TeleCaring, Capital Caring's proactive, outbound, phone-based service to provide additional daily support and symptom management to hospice patients and their families.

The objectives given to each team were to incorporate basic strategic and operational planning for the launch of an expanded TeleCaring service line as part of advanced illness care delivery system; to identify strategies to position Capital Caring's TeleCaring service as a competitive differentiator for patients, families and referral sources; to evaluate the market potential for the TeleCaring service line as a product to be sold to advanced care delivery organizations in markets outside of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area; and to utilize financial analysis to understand the requirements for expansion of the TeleCaring service line.

The Penn State team developed a strategy focused on converting TeleCaring into an independent subsidiary of Capital Caring. They were supported in their preparation both by faculty members and alumni.

"Participating in this type of competition is important for our MHA students because it gives them the opportunity to step into the shoes of senior executives and develop and communicate a strategic idea for moving an organization forward," said Jonathan Clark, assistant professor of health policy and administration and executive director of the MHA program. "In effect, it gives them the opportunity to play the role for which our program is designed to prepare them. To be able to do that in a setting in which they compete with students from other programs and receive feedback from leading health care executives is a rich experience that gives them a sense of their progress and development as health care leaders."

Shurgalla added that the experience, networking and intense competition that students experience during the event serves as a tremendous opportunity to augment the education they receive in the classroom.

"The team, student colleagues in MHA, faculty members in health policy and administration and the entire University should be proud of this team's accomplishments," Shurgalla said. "I know I am."

Last Updated March 28, 2014