The Charger Blog

MHA Candidates Excel in Prestigious Healthcare Competition

Several Chargers recently returned from Birmingham, Alabama, where they gained hands-on experience serving as healthcare consultants. The event connected them with students from across the U.S. and Canada, as well as with leaders in the healthcare field.

March 22, 2024

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Left to right: Jose Perez MHA, Hiba Jaidi ’25 MHA, Maria Latta ’24 MHA, Prof. Jordan Schweidenback, and Dr. Reena Kelly.
Left to right: Jose Perez MHA, Hiba Jaidi ’25 MHA, Maria Latta ’24 MHA, Prof. Jordan Schweidenback, and Dr. Reena Kelly.

Hiba Jaidi ’25 MHA recently had the opportunity to put what she’s learned as a Charger to the test. She and her classmates collaborated to develop strategies to address a challenge facing the healthcare system, competing with students from across North America.

Jaidi was one of three Chargers who traveled to Birmingham, Alabama, for the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Health Administration Case Competition. They received a complex assignment: to address the challenge of pediatric behavioral health – a critical issue that healthcare professionals face around the world. The students then worked together to develop their own innovative potential solutions, and they then presented their recommendations to a panel of judges.

“My experience at the UAB Health Administration Case Competition was truly incredible,” Jaidi said. “It was certainly a challenge, but it was also an amazing opportunity to apply the concepts and knowledge I've gained through my healthcare administration program to a real-world scenario.”

‘Our students did a phenomenal job’

Offered to graduate students from Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME)-accredited programs, the competition is designed to enable students to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom in a real-life setting. A capstone experience of sorts, it includes students from the U.S. and Canada. A team of Chargers also excelled at the competition last year.

Several Chargers attended the recent UAB Health Administration Case Competition in Alabama.
Several Chargers attended the recent UAB Health Administration Case Competition in Alabama.

Reena Kelly, Ph.D., MHA, an assistant professor and one of the students’ coaches, says the competition challenged students to put what they’ve learned into action. She believes it was a meaningful experience for the students that enabled them to learn and grow.

“Our students did a phenomenal job with the case presented to them,” said Dr. Kelly. “With only three weeks to work on developing a comprehensive proposal to the case, while also managing a full workload, our students really demonstrated commitment and dedication to this case competition.”

Lecturer Jordan Schweidenback, MHA, coached the students along with Dr. Kelly. He’s excited that they had the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned and to showcase their skills on an international stage.

“Participating in the UAB case competition brought the nature of the curriculum beyond the classroom to life,” he said. “Dr. Reena Kelly and I engaged with students in so many ways, from out-of-class meetings to navigating airports and chatting over mealtimes. This experience fostered a holistic learning environment.”

‘Excellent teamwork and professionalism’

To prepare for the competition, the Chargers collaborated on a practice case. They then brainstormed their ideas and refined them, drawing on what they’ve learned in the classroom. The competition gave them the opportunity to serve as consultants, presenting a five-year strategic plan that addressed a timely issue in healthcare. They presented to a panel of judges and received feedback from leaders in the healthcare industry, including professionals from Connecticut.

Maria Latta ’24 MHA (left), Hiba Jaidi ’25 MHA (center), and Jose Perez MHA at the competition.
Maria Latta ’24 MHA (left), Hiba Jaidi ’25 MHA (center), and Jose Perez MHA at the competition.

“This experiential learning opportunity transcended the typical notion of curriculum – program and course content, syllabi, instruction, and assessments – enriching connections with students and energizing those relationships,” said Prof. Schweidenback. “It illustrated the impact of dynamic educational environments, where learning goes beyond traditional boundaries, shaping lively relationships among faculty, students, and peers across the country.”

“Overall, I think the case competition was an opportunity for our students to apply what they learned in individual courses into a single case,” added Dr. Kelly. “As faculty, we were there to support and offer guidance to them, but to really encourage them to look at how much they had accomplished, regardless of placing or winning the competition. We are very proud of our students and the work they put in.”

‘Build a network’
Maria Latta ’24 MHA.
Maria Latta ’24 MHA.

The competition offered networking events that brought together students from dozens of schools and professionals from the healthcare industry. For Maria Latta ’24 MHA, the event was an “extremely educational process.” She appreciated the opportunity to build her teamwork skills while exploring the fast-paced field of healthcare consulting. She was also grateful to have the chance to make new connections at the competition.

“Attending the case competition was so valuable because of the opportunity to meet other MHA students from more than 40 other schools across the nation,” she said. “Not only did I get to see their proposals which enriched my understanding of the issue at hand and helped develop a strategic mindset, I got to build a network of other students in my same field.”

‘Keep calm and focused’
Hiba Jaidi ’25 MHA.
Hiba Jaidi ’25 MHA.

While in Alabama, the students had the opportunity to tour Children’s of Alabama, a pediatric hospital. It was an immersive way for the students to learn about hospital operations, and to observe how staff provide compassionate care to their young patients.

Jaidi says visiting Alabama was a “fun experience,” and she’s glad she and her fellow Chargers had the opportunity to go. She says the competition was a great experience and that she’ll continue to draw on what she learned from being a part of it.

“In the competition, I learned the importance of open and effective communication,” she said. “I also practiced working as part of a team and juggling multiple tasks efficiently. I learned how to keep calm and focused when things can get tough, highlighting the need to be strong and adaptable in the healthcare field. The courage to keep going will fuel my journey to always work harder, pushing me toward a future full of chances to grow both personally and professionally.”