13:42 PM

UHCL's master of healthcare administration team wins big in competition

HADM winners
UHCL President Ira K. Blake congratulates three MHA students whose successful collaboration resulted in a victory in a national case study competition. Despite the challenges of competing virtually, Team UHCL bested 36 other universities and each of the members received a $5000 award. Front: Blake, Team UHCL Captain Jennifer Ho. Middle: Dr. Femi Ayadi, Dr. Jordan Mitchell, Jalynn Evans. Back: Prof. Raymond Khoury, Isidore Dibia. The team and advisers prepared for hundreds of hours beforehand via Zoom, meeting in person for the first time for this photo.

Three University of Houston-Clear Lake Master of Healthcare Administration students defeated 36 other universities in a national case study competition. Their work tackled a local Houston healthcare challenge exacerbated by COVID-19-related hypertension.

Team captain Jennifer Ho, Jalynn Evans and Isidor Dibia decided that the COVID-19 pandemic was not going to keep them from competing against 36 other universities in the 25th annual Everett V. Fox Student Case Competition. The National Association of Health Service Executives (NAHSE) offered the event virtually on Oct. 1-6. The team presented their recommendations to a panel of healthcare executives in each round.

"Our team was amazing. They put a lot of effort into building the case," said Professor of Healthcare Administration Femi Ayadi, who was Team UHCL's faculty adviser. "Winning the competition is a huge accomplishment."

Students from other universities — including Columbia University, University of Michigan, University of California Los Angeles, Baylor University and Cornell University — quickly learned the name "UH-Clear Lake."

"If they didn't know about us before, they certainly know us now," she said. "Winning this competition has put us on the map, nationally."

Ayadi explained that the basis of the competition was to build a business case of a real-life situation — a bit like a capstone class, but more intense. "Our students have competed in this in previous years and made it to the semi-finals last year," she said. "The learning process is the same despite being virtual this year."

Above all, Ayadi said the competition was a great learning and networking experience. "It demonstrates that UHCL students really know what they're doing, and that they're able to use everything they've learned in their classes and put it together," she said.

And now, she said, UHCL's healthcare administration students are designing business cases that can really work. "Healthcare executives are judging these case competitions and see that we are producing students with competencies ready for the healthcare workforce," she said. "The quality of our program and our students is evident."

Team Captain Jennifer Ho said she had participated in this competition last year and was able to implement what she learned. "I think we were all in shock when we found out we won," she said. "This is the first year NAHSE hosted 37 teams — more than any other year, and it was also more difficult since it was virtual. I never saw my teammates in person, only on Zoom. When we won, Dr. Ayadi called me and we were both screaming on the phone."

Ho said the prompt this year focused on Common Spirit Health's Houston market of CHI St. Luke's Health. Teams were tasked with launching a strategic plan for services that were paused or shifted to virtual platforms during COVID-19, while developing a long-term digital health strategy.

"We had to choose from a list of medical conditions and we selected hypertension, because there is a huge hypertensive population in Houston, with substantial health disparities among Black and Hispanic patients, and it is one of the main underlying causes that can be heightened by COVID-19," Ho said.

She said she believed her previous participation in the competition and the skills she acquired in her MHA/MBA coursework helped her succeed in this year's competition. "The program gives you a really good grasp on the technical foundation of healthcare administration, and also the soft skills, which are so important," Ho said. "Working virtually, the soft skills were driving the success of the team—emotional intelligence, critical thinking and communication skills are what I've learned from my profs and my classmates."

Ho plans to graduate in May 2021, and she is passionate about her future career in hospital administration. "I want to evoke change on a system level, which is why I am pursuing healthcare administration instead of becoming a clinician," she said. "I want to work collaboratively with multi-disciplinary teams. I love the collaborative environment and because it's an ever-changing field, I'll have to keep learning.

"I'm excited to become the person I needed in healthcare growing up – not many Asian Americans are in this field, and I hope to play a part in advancing these roles for women and minorities," she said.

Ayadi said she is still excited about the win. "My students were amazing," she said. "I am still on cloud nine."

For more information about UHCL's Master of Healthcare Administration, go online.