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The Home Clean Home team took first place in the CHEST Foundation Case Competition. With former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop are: Supina Mapon ‘09, Jamie Jones ‘09, Ekaterina Kozina ’09, Lauren Stone (NU pre-med) and Leslie Gerdes '09

Business and medicine come together as Kellogg team helps beat asthma

CHEST Foundation contest spurs innovation, experiential learning for student winners; C. Everett Koop among elite judges

By Matt Golosinski

5/13/2008 - Citizens in Chicago may breathe easier, thanks to the business insights of Northwestern University graduate students.

A team of Kellogg School and Feinberg School of Medicine students took first place in the CHEST Foundation Case Competition, the final round of which was held May 8 at the James L. Allen Center in Evanston. The event was co-sponsored by the Larry and Carol Levy Social Entrepreneurship Lab at Kellogg, as well as the Kellogg Social Impact Club, the Health Industry Management Program, and Healthcare and Biotechnology Club.

Taking as its impetus an asthma epidemic estimated to affect 630,000 Chicagoans each year, the competition challenged five student teams from Kellogg, Feinberg and the University of Chicago to devise entrepreneurial solutions that would alleviate asthma, including those undiagnosed or untreated cases often found among the city’s poorer communities. Two teams — OpenMic.Health and Home Clean Home — advanced to the contest’s final round. Both groups delivered strong proposals, but after deliberating the judges selected Home Clean Home as the overall winner.

The team, composed of Northwestern pre-medicine student Lauren Stone and Kellogg students Supina Mapon, Ekaterina Kozina, Jamie Jones and Leslie Gerdes (all ’09), impressed judges with a business plan designed to attack key asthma triggers in the home. Through an effort to educate people about these triggers, and also help them reduce exposure in the home, the team developed a hybrid for-profit and nonprofit business model.

Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop was among the prestigious judges for the final round of the CHEST Foundation Case Competition, held May 8 at the Kellogg School.
Photo © Nathan Mandell
The for-profit arm would raise revenue through a residential cleaning service that specialized in eliminating indoor asthma triggers, while the non-for-profit organization would use these funds to drive a community-based “train the trainers” asthma education program. The students’ polished presentation and attention to financial details earned them top marks, as well as a $2,000 prize.

Runner-up Open Mic.Health earned $1,000 for its proposal to develop a DVD-driven media tool designed to engage and educate patients about asthma. The device, which featured YouTube-like videos created by community members, would be placed in clinics to reach the target audience. Visitors to the clinic would be likely to share with friends and neighbors insights gleaned from the educational programming, thereby increasing knowledge about asthma in the community and helping change attitudes about the disease and its management, according to the team, which consisted of Feinberg students Andrew Ambrosy, John Kubasiak, Sam Haywood, Yaw Nyame and Mike Gibbs and Kellogg students Eduardo Montes and Peter Siu (both ’08).

The Home Clean Home team spent hours brainstorming and discussing ideas, said Jones. “Our backgrounds are all different, which allowed us to pull from our experiences and create a final plan that incorporated many perspectives,” she said. “Once we agreed on a general course, the idea snowballed, becoming bigger, better and stronger with each iteration. The final product was much greater than the sum of its parts.” Ultimately, she added, the team's ability to challenge each other's ideas and then build on them allowed its members to create the winning business plan.

Professor Tim Feddersen, academic director of the Social EnterprisE at Kellogg (SEEK) program and director of the new Larry and Carol Levy Social Entrepreneurship Lab said, "We hope this competition will serve as a template for future events that will focus not only on healthcare in the Chicago area but address healthcare globally along with issues like the environment, education and even national security."

In all, 24 students participated in the competition, which was judged by an esteemed panel of practitioners and academics, including C. Everett Koop, M.D., former U.S. Surgeon General, and Alvin Thomas Jr., M.D., president of the American College of Chest Physicians.

“I was impressed with the creativity and professionalism of both finalists. I was amazed by the wisdom of my fellow judges, especially Dr. Koop,” said David Dranove, the Walter J. McNerney Professor of Health Industry Management.

Another judge, Allen Goldberg ’88, is a professor of pediatrics at Loyola University Medical Center and a graduate of the Kellogg Executive MBA Program. He was among those who initially approached Kellogg to determine how the school might partner with the CHEST Foundation — the philanthropic arm of the American College of Chest Physicians — to provide a venue that would help educate more people about asthma.

“As a Kellogg alum, I know the potential of ‘Kellogg power,’” Goldberg said. “This is why I made the challenge to Kellogg students, faculty and alumni to partner with the CHEST Foundation’s Communication in Health Care Project, an initiative meant to provide trustworthy, understandable information to disadvantaged populations so they can manage their health, navigate the health system and find resources they need to do so.” Goldberg added that one of his goals was to show how to leverage the power of social entrepreneurship in the service of humanitarian and global health objectives. The case competition process and the final event was the most wonderful example of teamwork I have ever experienced and the best celebration my 20-year anniversary as a Kellogg graduate,” Goldberg said.

The CHEST Foundation includes some 16,000 members worldwide. The organization’s mission is to partner with physicians, patients and the public to provide education and resources in cardiopulmonary and critical care medicine. The May 8 event was hosted by John Alexander, M.D., president-elect of the CHEST Foundation and a 1987 graduate of the Kellogg School’s EMBA program. He is professor of surgery at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine and chief of cardiac surgery at Evanston Northwestern Hospital.

Dean Dipak C. Jain said the collaboration between Kellogg and the CHEST Foundation illustrates the impact that business frameworks can have in the healthcare arena.

“This competition is an excellent example of how business schools can play a key part helping practitioners address urgent problems,” said Jain. “The solutions our students create and implement can offer profound benefits to the larger community.“