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David Hoidal, UAB Health System CEO, left, joins Kellogg students (l to r) Christa Van der Eb, Susan Abraham and Ricardo Garcia (all '07) after their second-place finish in the Health Administration Case Conference on Feb. 8. In the event, which was sponsored by UAB, the Kellogg team placed above a dozen other schools, including those with a strong disciplinary focus on healthcare.

Kellogg team’s performance impresses at health industry competition

By Adrienne Murrill

3/2/2007 - A team of three Kellogg School Health Industry Management majors recently earned second place at the first Health Administration Case Competition, held Feb. 7-8 at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.

Ricardo Garcia, Christa Van der Eb and Susan Abraham (all ’07) competed against 13 other teams, comprised of students from other masters programs in health services administration.

“We were especially proud to earn second place because the other schools live and breathe hospital administration in all of their classes,” Garcia said. “Kellogg has many strengths, including its Health Industry Management Program, but our recent reputation has been in other areas.”

This case competition challenged the teams to help a hospital in the South plan for a new children’s hospital in the area. Garcia and Van der Eb said they were required to present a holistic strategy that included choosing where to build and creating financial projections, an implementation timeline and a marketing strategy that would help the hospital succeed and serve the area appropriately. The teams had to consider the hospital’s mission and competition, as well as the area’s economic and political history. They had three weeks to create their strategy, which was presented at the Birmingham conference.

“Certainly doing the financial projections was a challenge because we didn’t have a lot of exposure to hospital design, architecture, the cost of technology, and the time frame for construction,” Garcia said. “We really had to seek out experts in the field and get an understanding from them.”

Van der Eb pointed out that children’s hospitals have a unique set of challenges that are different from adult hospitals. “This case allowed us to explore current trends in pediatric care, ranging from disease incidence to reimbursement rates to new technologies.”

After the competition, the teams learned that the case was based on a real hospital in San Antonio, Texas. Van der Eb said that although they did not know it at the time, the CEO of the hospital was listening to the presentations and asking them questions. “It was a mock case, but it was almost like we were serving as consultants,” she said.

Both Garcia and Van der Eb said the competition provided them with a good learning experience and a great opportunity to synthesize various insights from their Kellogg coursework.

“What gave us an edge over the health services administration programs was that, at Kellogg, we get a good grounding in business strategy, and that’s what the judges were looking for,” she said. “We were able to go beyond the financial projections and think critically about how to best position this hospital from a strategic standpoint.”

Professor Joel Shalowitz, director of the Kellogg School’s Health Industry Management Program, was impressed with the team’s performance: “They not only approached the hospital case by doing a fine job analyzing the secondary data, but they had the initiative to interview a number of locally based experts in the field. The team’s final product was first-rate and our faculty is proud of their accomplishment.”