Whitman School MBA Team Wins 50K First-Place Prize in Humana-Mays Healthcare Analytics Competition

Four student photos of the winners of a business competition

In November, a team of Syracuse University Whitman School of Management students took first place over more than 500 teams from universities across the nation in the Humana-Mays Healthcare Analytics Competition, held at the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University. Whitman’s Nicholas Graham ’23 MBA, L’23; Natalie Howell ’24 MBA, Pulak Jain ’24 MBA and Edward Raff ’23 took home the $50,000 prize in the competition that challenges master’s level students to use their analytical skills, data and innovative ideas to solve real-world problems for Humana. The competition has become one of the top healthcare analytics case competitions in the country.

This year’s competition revolved around cancer patients and drug adherence to a new medication that has proven highly effective if a patient can complete a full course. However, many discontinue treatment due to side effects. The competition’s challenge was for teams of two to four master’s level students to build a model that would predict which patients would have an adverse drug event that would result in stopping the medication before the treatment is complete, while also making the model fair in treatment with regard to race and gender.

The competition was completed in multiple phases starting with 500 teams – 750 master’s level students representing 75 major U.S. universities — beginning on Aug. 1, 2023. Of those, 50 were invited to submit a written business case about how Humana could improve business using the information in their models. The top five finalists were announced on Oct. 27, which included the Whitman team named “Cross-Functional Counter-Factual Claims,” an alliteration on the team’s diverse background and planned strategy for analyzing what would have happened “counter” to the facts in the data. On Nov. 8, the five teams traveled to Texas A&M, where they had only 30 minutes each to pitch and explain their business plans, as well as answer questions from data scientists, pharmacologists and executives from Humana and professors from Texas A&M. Whitman’s first-place win was announced at the awards ceremony on Nov. 9.

To secure first place, the Whitman team members developed a custom algorithm to advise Humana on how to improve business using the information learned from their model, according to Raff. Then, they researched medical journals for interventions that can improve patient drug adherence, what services Humana provides and how they are offered. Their final business plan focused on combining the current and recommended services into a single unified portal to provide medically sound guidance on improving patient incomes.

“I truly enjoyed this opportunity for hands-on learning through the Humana-Mays Healthcare Analytics Competition. Working to develop a solution with the potential to make a real difference in patients’ lives was an incredible experience,” says Howell. “We each have very different strengths and professional backgrounds, and we work together well, which allowed us to challenge each other and succeed as a team. Winning this competition is a reflection of our collective experience and our continued learning at the Whitman School of Management, empowering us to approach real-world challenges with confidence.”

For more information on the Whitman School of Management’s MBA program, visit https://whitman.syracuse.edu/graduate-programs/full-time-mba-program.

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