CHHS News

George Mason Graduate Students Bring Home a Win

UAB Team

Left to right: Dr. Martin Perlin, faculty advisor; Melissa Martin; Allison Anderson; Brittany Stone

By Melissa Martin

It might have been their first time on the national stage, but George Mason's Master of Health Administration (MHA) team brought home a victory. Allison Anderson, Melissa Martin and Brittany Stone, won 3rd place at the University of Alabama Case Competition in Birmingham February 22-24. The Mason team was one of 39 schools in the competition that was designed to give students the opportunity to take what they've learned and apply it to an actual situation at a healthcare organization.

The students were given less than three weeks to research a Baltimore hospital's complex behavioral health initiative and develop their strategy and recommendations in a compelling PowerPoint presentation. The team then traveled to Birmingham to present in front of a panel of healthcare executives. The pressure intensified as the team successfully advanced through three rounds of presentations and question and answer sessions. The judge's panel and audience grew bigger with each round.

This was Mason's first year in the competition and it was made possible thanks to a donation by a local healthcare company, The Medical Team.

"We were not intimidated or fearful that we had no footprint in the competition. We didn't compete against other schools. We just competed against ourselves," Anderson said. "We were committed to having the best quality deliverable."

Students drew upon their critical thinking, strategic planning, and executive decision making coursework, as well as leveraged their presentation skills, all key competencies of the MHA program.

MHA professors encourage students to "think about their thinking" and support a team-based approach to healthcare. The team used that same approach with the case. The judges repeatedly complimented how well the team understood the complex patients and came up with a solution that was well thought out and feasible.

Stone said, "We were all determined to produce a real-life solution and something that would be valuable to the organization and not just win the competition."

Each student invested 80-100 hours to prepare for the competition, while still holding down their full time jobs. The team members' diverse skills and professional experiences were an advantage, but ultimately, their suitability was the key to their success.

"We started off with the right team. It's always the people, which included Dr. Perlin's leadership. It was a great case study on how high performing teams work," said Anderson.

Associate Professor and Section Chair Martin Perlin traveled alongside the team through their journey. He said the win is shared by the faculty and students who cheered on the team from afar.

"This win serves as an acknowledgement of the work the faculty has done to design and deliver an academic curriculum that focuses on the competencies necessary for success in our rapidly evolving healthcare industry," Perlin said. "Students are already asking what they can do to prepare themselves to be selected for next year's team. Our win has raised the bar for student engagement and academic achievement."

As the three students prepare to graduate, this win brings a personal sense of accomplishment, and a milestone in Mason history.

"This was a great culminating experience for me and this program. It gave me the opportunity to use everything I learned from the program and the confidence that this education has prepared me for this kind of work," Stone said.