MHA students find connection at NAHSE conference

Case competition offers hands-on learning experience for future health care leaders

Kristen Mitchell
Students pose for a photo during their trip to the NAHSE Annual Educational Conference.

Going into the annual Everett V. Fox Student Case Competition, Master of Health administration student Elijah Hendrix said he was eager to put the skills he’s learned at the College of Public Health into practice. It was out of his comfort zone, and? a step in the right direction. 

“It’s very important…to challenge yourself and push yourself to be the best in ways you don’t think you could,” he said. “I can now prove to myself I can take on a project of that caliber. It helped me build that confidence.”

The case competition is an opportunity for second-year MHA students to get hands-on experience tackling a realistic challenge in a health care setting. Leading up to the competition, the teams received a limited amount of data and information about the case and used their creativity, knowledge and experience to analyze the issue and develop a potential solution. They presented their findings in Atlanta before expert judges, which included leaders in health care, business and academia.

Fellow second-year MHA students McKenna Hensley and Akarsh Gadey represented the CPH alongside Hendrix at this year’s competition, which focused on cyber security. The team spent weeks doing market research, hashing out strategies and identifying deliverables specific to the case. While the team did not place, Hensley said she’s proud of their work and walked away with valuable insights.

“It’s really, really hard work,” she said. “You put a lot of time into it, but it’s a great experience that I would recommend to all MHA students.”

Julie Robbins, associate professor-clinical in the Division of Health Services Management and Policy and an advisor to the team, said case competitions are an opportunity for students to develop their problem-solving skills. 

“There is nothing we do in the classroom that can really mimic the time-bound nature of it, what feels like high stakes because it’s competitive and working on a real-life problem,” she said. 

The competition takes place annually during the National Association of Health Services Executives' (NAHSE) Annual Educational Conference. NAHSE is a nonprofit association of Black health care executives founded in 1968 to promote the advancement and development of Black and other minority health care leaders and elevate the quality of health care services minority and underserved communities receive.

In addition to the three students who participated in this year’s competition, six additional first-year MHA students attended as observers with support from the college’s Health Equity Fund for Health Services Management and Policy. This gave more students an opportunity to network with CPH alumni and other Black and minority health care leaders.

“We have a growing alumni presence at the event, and it’s great for students to connect with people who have been on that path before them,” Robbins said. “The Health Equity Fund provides us a sustainable resource to be able to continue to do that.”

Forging a path in health care leadership as a Black man often feels isolating, said first-year MHA student Johnny Henry III. Attending as an observer, he was inspired to meet so many Black men from across the country working as senior executives — embodying a career trajectory he hopes to emulate and serving as a welcoming community he can tap into for support. 

“There’s just not that many of us in our field,” he said. “It just reminded me I’m supposed to be here, I can keep going and I can make it just like everybody else here.”

Attending NAHSE last year as an observer helped Gadey know what to expect during the case competition, but it also helped him find a job. He interned at Deloitte over the summer after meeting a recruiter at the conference and was invited to return for a full-time position in health care consulting after he completes his degree.

 “NAHSE will always hold a special place in my heart,” he said.