Sloan Program Director Sean Nicholson (bottom right) and other organizers and participants in the case competition gather for a photo SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital’s Conference Center. The competition, organized by Cornell students, brought together top students from graduate schools nationwide. 

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Sloan students organize case competition: “An experience of a lifetime”

“We will never forget the excitement.” “I was inspired.” “It was an experience of a lifetime.”

That’s how students described the 2023 edition of a case competition organized and co-sponsored by the Sloan Program in Health Administration in the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy.

Culminating a year of planning by the Sloan Program’s Healthcare Students Association (HSA) and co-sponsored by SSM Health, the case competition attracted 40 teams representing the nation’s top graduate programs in health care, business, osteopathy and related fields. The “elite eight” teams earned their way to the final round, held at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital’s Conference Center.

The teams competed by presenting strategic plans for lowering costs and improving access to health care services in the U.S. The HSA students didn’t compete. Their job was to make the competition a success.

“From managing the tiniest details of presentation transition times by the minute to facilitating the final awards announcement process—our team operated it all,” said HSA Co-President Christine Young MHA ’23. “Knowing that what we did at the competition has the potential to positively impact millions of patients’ lives is what made everything so much more meaningful.”

This is the third annual case competition. Students must demonstrate knowledge and skills in strategy formation and to see ahead by scanning an emerging market for trends and options on the horizon. In St. Louis, the students were challenged to devise real-world applications for the Health Care Utility (HCU) business model – a novel, non-profit structure in which otherwise competing entities, such as health systems, collaborate in a mission-oriented way to provide an essential good or service they all need – as do patients – at the lowest possible cost.

SSM Health is a founding member of the first established HCU, Civica RX. “This competition is just one more way in which we’re showing that when it comes to pursuing cutting-edge innovation and serving our communities — it’s about achieving both together,” said Carter Dredge MHA '11, SSM Health’s senior vice president and lead futurist. Dredge and other SSM Health leaders were a major presence at the competition, as was Sloan Program Director Sean Nicholson and Associate Director Cathy Bartell.

The focus, though, was on an event run by and for students. “We were interacting with participants from different universities for over four months, starting from the registration till the final presentations,” said Sowmya Ravi MHA ’23, HSA vice president of case competitions. “It was great to see what they were able to contribute on such an important, relevant topic.”

HSA Co-President Stephanie Post MHA ’23 said the Sloan team learned valuable personal and professional skills through the experience, but it was also a competition and that brings its own rewards: “One of the most memorable moments was watching the reactions of teams when they found out they placed in the top three. We will never forget the excitement on their faces!”

That excitement was amplified by the generous prizes made possible with support from Rachel Miller MHA ’94. The UCLA Field School of Public Health earned the first-place award ($10,000) and teams from the University of Southern California and Yale University rounded out the top three. 

“It was such a privilege to work alongside an amazing team to plan Sloan’s national case competition as a first-year MHA student,” said Jacky Aung MHA ’24, HSA vice president. “I was inspired by the judges’ work to deliver value to the industry, and the impressive presentations that were delivered. I can’t wait for next year’s case competition!” 


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