Alexander Urry MPH ’19 shares his experience co-chairing the Yale Health Services Innovation Case Competition, new this year and born from a collaboration with Yale SOM alum Adam Blumenthal ’89 and Elara Caring. Urry is a student in the Health Care Management Program at Yale School of Public Health.
It all began at the end of last spring, when Yale SOM alum Adam Blumenthal ’89 contacted Dr. Howard Forman to express his interest in reengaging with students and faculty here on healthcare initiatives. As the founder and managing director of Blue Wolf Capital, a private equity firm in New York City, Blumenthal has been a key player in the fast-changing healthcare landscape with a singular goal to improve care quality and delivery. Together, Blumenthal and Forman thought that Blue Wolf’s portfolio company, Elara Caring, the fourth-largest home care company in the U.S., would be the ideal sponsor for a new case competition focused on the healthcare services industry. After hatching this idea, Dr. Forman began recruiting students to spearhead the event, called the Yale Health Services Innovation Case Competition. In late April, I joined the team as co-chair, along with my fellow Health Care Management Program classmate Shyam.
In the last few weeks of the semester, we started reserving rooms, having discussions with the executive team at Elara Caring, and getting quotes for catering, but with our summer internships fast approaching, the large majority of organizing would have to wait until we returned to campus in August. Once we arrived back in New Haven we wanted to hit the ground running, but first we needed a team. After recruiting a team of five motivated MBA/MPH students, we spent the next three months curating judges, marketing to other institutions, finalizing logistics, and, most important, preparing the case.
With Elara Caring, a prominent company in the home healthcare space, as our sponsor, we decided to place them as the protagonist of the competition and use actual challenges that they face as the focus for the case. Additionally, our case writers decided to use a unique format for the case, rarely seen at other competitions: The final case was a compilation of video interviews with key Elara Caring executives—their CEO, CFO, chief of nursing, and others—in which they outlined their particular challenges to improving home healthcare, specifically in predicting adverse events for seniors before they occur.
On November 3, 20 teams from across the U.S. and Canada, including those from Berkeley, Cornell, Georgia State, NYU, Temple, Columbia, and the University of Chicago, to name a few, arrived at Evans Hall ready to pitch their unique solutions to Elara Caring’s challenges. In addition to our 20 teams, we also had 15 judges at the event. We were very fortunate to have a diverse panel of judges from across the healthcare landscape, from Yale New Haven Hospital, Leeway, CityMD, Fair Haven Community Health, Health Haven Hub, and others; all leaders in their respective fields. We were even lucky to have SOM Professor Jason Abaluck judge our first-round presentations. He quickly became known at the event for his sharp and candid questions.
After eight hours, two rounds of presentations, delicious catering from SOM Hospitality and Tikkaway, and many cups of coffee, our finalist judges awarded Yale the first-place prize of $8,000, followed by Berkeley in second place, winning $2,000, and Chicago in third, with a prize of $1,000. Our judges were extremely impressed by the caliber of presentations, and Elara Caring has even offered the potential for any team to receive an internship in the spring to help implement their solution into Elara Caring’s business model.
In all, the event was a truly extraordinary experience to both organize and watch. Given how complicated and constantly evolving healthcare is, I believe that institutions, such as ours, play a crucial role in shaping it moving forward. With this in mind, I want SOM and Yale to continue to be a hub for healthcare innovation. The YHSI Case Competition is only the most recent addition to an already-rich healthcare community at SOM, joining the Healthcare Life Sciences Club, the Yale Healthcare Case Competition, and the Yale Healthcare Conference. I have faith that these initiatives will only continue to expand moving forward as our students grow into the next generation of healthcare leaders.
In closing, I am very appreciative to Adam Blumenthal and the CEO of Elara Caring, Scott Herman, for their instrumental sponsorship and engagement with the event. I am also grateful to Dr. Forman for his invaluable support and mentorship throughout this process. Finally, I want to extend my sincerest gratitude to my YHSI team members—Shyam Bhatt MPH ’19, Shruthi Balasuryan MBA/MPH ’20, Nitya Kanuri MBA/MPH ’20, Jeremy Pincus MBA/MPH ’20, Gus Roman MBA/MPH ’20, and Scott Shapiro ’20—without whom this event would not have taken place.