For the second consecutive year, a Johns Hopkins University student team has won first place in the annual Pfizer Case Competition, held October 27 at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. The award, in total worth $10,000 in the sixth installment of this competition, was once again hosted by the Healthcare Business Association (HBA) student organization. In all, 47 student teams from universities across the nation traveled to Baltimore to compete on a case judged by a panel of Pfizer executives.
Five Johns Hopkins University students – including three from Carey – comprised the winning team. Included was Priya Arunachalam, a Global MBA student from Carey who was also part of last year’s victorious squad; Delaram Jasmine Taghipour, MPH/MBA dual degree through Carey and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Joseph Anthony Tisinger, Carey Global MBA; Devyn Bell, MS in Public Health in Health Policy, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; and Florian Pontani, MS in Mechanical Engineering, Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering.
Finishing second in the competition was a team from Carnegie Mellon, and the third-place contingent was from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Other teams included entries from the Tuck School of Business of Dartmouth College, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Illinois, and Tulane University.
The challenge put to all of the teams by Pfizer was to develop a strategy to introduce an effective vaccine against C. difficile, a widespread bacterium that is the leading cause of health care-associated infections in the United States and an increasing disease concern worldwide. To date, most efforts concerning C. difficile have concentrated on the treatment of associated illnesses caused by the pathogen rather than prevention. The Johns Hopkins team outlined a viable plan to establish the practicality of a potential vaccine, articulating the steps involved, key stakeholders, and success metrics.
“Our diverse team helped us look at the case from different perspectives,” said Arunachalam. “Our presentation provided a thorough investigation of the market for C. difficile vaccines. Our team’s analysis and recommendations are viable because they took into account reimbursement strategies and physician workflow,” she added.
Case competitions such as this provide unique opportunities to apply academic theory to real-world business and societal challenges. They also offer participating students exposure to and feedback from business executives at major companies like Pfizer, who provide valuable strategic insight through their professional experience.