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For the second year in a row, a student team from the University of Alabama at Birmingham M.S. in Health Informatics (MSHI) program wins the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Student Case Competition.

The winning team of students, all in their first year of the MSHI program, are Ashley Beasley, Robert Gallagher, RHIA, and Larissa Pierce, M.D. The team’s analyst is MSHI student, Katy White. This is the fourth year of the HIMSS Case Competition and in addition to back-to-back national titles, UAB teams finished 3rd in 2018 and 2nd in 2019.

“Winning a national title two years in a row is impressive no matter what, but to accomplish this with different students each year - and with all first year students this time - speaks volumes about our MSHI program and the students we attract,” said Christy Harris Lemak, Ph.D., chair, Department of Health Services Administration.

“I am so proud of our students who participate in the HIMSS Case Competition. This year was the first team that was all first-year students. The case competition requires a lot of work, researching, and interviews outside the classroom and the due dates are right during midterms and finals,” said Sue Feldman, Ph.D., director, UAB Graduate Programs in Health Informatics. “To achieve this distinction the second year in a row is exciting and sets the bar high for all other future teams, at UAB and elsewhere.” Each year, the case is based on a previous HIMSS Davies Award of Excellence awardee. This years Case Study was Ambulatory Diabetes Care and was based on a real-life situation facing MetroHealth System in Cleveland, Ohio, where MetroHealth is the primary care provider for more than 10,000 adult patients with diabetes.

Ashley BeasleyAshley Beasley"The best part of the HIMSS Case Management competition was our team. Each of us brought a different area of expertise and we learned from one another,” said Beasley. “Katy was our project manager; her leadership and time management skills kept the team focused and meeting deadlines. Larissa is a family practice physician and her knowledge of diabetes management, disease process, and social determinants of health was invaluable. Robert was our expert on all things Epic® and he developed the majority of our case’s change management process. My background in Medicare quality metrics and MIPS allowed me to develop the value aspect of our case. The process was incredibly rewarding."

HIMSS Larissa PierceLarissa PiercePierce is a hospitalist at Huntsville Hospital in addition to being an MSHI first-year student. As a physician, she reminded the team to keep the patient as the main focus, which helped make this challenge feel real.

“I wanted the team to always think ‘Is this what’s going to be best for the patient?’ in order to make this experience feel real and help us maintain proper focus,” said Pierce. “One of the greatest aspects of the MSHI program is the focus on group work and the continuity of group work over time, because health care is a team sport with group dynamics that last long-term especially in patient care.”

Gallagher, who in addition to being a student is an Epic® Health Information Management and Ambulatory Applications Analyst at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, says their team success came from not focusing on personal success.

Robert GallagherRobert Gallagher“I attribute our achievement to being a cohesive team that trusted, challenged, supported each other, and kept our focus on the organization in the case study and their success, and less on winning a competition,” said Gallagher. “We reached out to the organization to learn more about its mission, vision, culture, current state, and goals and then used this information to guide our discussions and recommendations for a QI process and technology solution that best aligned with the organization.”

“Each of my team members brought unique and invaluable knowledge to the table which allowed our team to provide a thorough, cohesive and professional analysis of this year’s case study,” said White, who served as analyst.

Katy WhiteKaty White“Having the opportunity to apply the knowledge I was gaining from the MSHI program to a real-life scenario, along with working with brilliant teammates who share my passion, really helped affirm that I have found a career path that I am very excited to continue pursuing and that I am in the right program to do so!”

Every year, the winning team presents their case at the HIMSS Global Conference & Expo. The 2020 event was canceled due to COVID-19 so this years’ event will feature presentations from both UAB national champions. The HIMSS21 event is scheduled for August 9 – 13, 2021, in Las Vegas.

The MSHI program at UAB is a CAHIIM-accredited online program serving working adults across the United States. The two-year program teaches the fundamentals of health informatics, data science, user experience and implementing innovative solutions.