FIU Healthcare MBA students scored a first-place finish in South Florida case competition.

FIU Healthcare MBA students scored a first-place finish in South Florida case competition.

FIU Healthcare MBA students scored a first-place finish in South Florida case competition.

The five-student College of Business’ Healthcare MBA (HCMBA) team won first place in the annual South Florida Healthcare Executive Forum’s case competition, where teams analyze a business case study and offer strategies to overcome existing challenges.

This year’s competition challenged students with crafting a business plan for St. Luke Hospital in Cedar Rapids, Iowa that would improve the healthcare system’s quality and increase profitability.

“They showed strong ability to collect and analyze data and use it to support their arguments,” said Paulo Gomes, assistant professor, who teaches operations management in the HCMBA program. “They presented a solution that looks at the future while taking into account the current healthcare regulatory scenario.”

The assignment was especially tough, students noted, because St. Luke’s is currently on solid ground, having reigned in costs and established a quality management system with both patients and physicians.

“The St Luke hospital system today is thriving, so we had to be more creative,” said Stefan Wennin, operations manager at Aircraft Composite Technologies. “As a result, we decided to bring our strategy into today’s healthcare climate, including the Affordable Care Act, in order to effect change.”

Pushing Further.

The FIU team offered St. Luke’s executives two opportunities for growth: targeting under-insured consumers by offering high quality service at a low cost and establishing St. Luke’s as a center of excellence in cardiac care, a service that offers big companies lower premiums on health plans for competitors.

“Our team provided two solutions that we were able to connect by implementing simultaneous synergies in order to increase the bottom line,” said Jillian Gerstenberger, doctor of audiology and clinical manager at Pediatrix Medical Group. “Developing innovative ways to drive the bottom line was difficult.”

The FIU team received the case study in December 2016 and worked on it for nearly four months. On April 15, the students presented their findings to the panel of judges for SFHEF, a chapter of the American College of Healthcare Executives, which met at Broward Health North for judging. A week later, the HCMBA team learned that their presentation had won first place.

In addition to Gerstenberger and Wennin, the College of Business team included Christine Hogenkamp, Johanna Aronov and Jennifer Muina. This year’s Student Case Competition included graduate-level teams from FIU and Barry University as well as undergraduate competitors from Florida Atlantic University.

Guidance and collaboration.

As part of the competition, each team was partnered with a mentor to help guide development of the business plan. The College of Business team worked with Justin Greene, director of contracting and business development at Cleveland Clinic Florida.

“He shared his time and experience with us and talked us through solutions to develop our thoughts,” said Wennin. “Having someone of that stature was an exceptional learning opportunity.”

Addressing a real-world situation and developing a solution was no easy task for the FIU team. The entire project went through multiple iterations, with multiple rounds of research, discussion and going back to the drawing board.

“The biggest lesson was the benefits of brainstorming – bouncing around ideas, learning from each other and challenging each other to think more outside the box,” said Hogenkamp, manager of the Ambulatory Health Clinic at the Miami Jewish Health System.

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