The Rutgers team wins third place in a virtual case competition hosted by Canada's Odette School of Business.

Graduate students propose prize-winning solution to real-world issue exposed by pandemic

The competition centered on the shortage of personal protection equipment that created challenges for health systems in Canada and around the world.

A team of four Rutgers Business School graduate students tied for third place in Supply Chain Advancement Network (SCAN) Health’s virtual business plan competition in Canada.

Students were required to assume the role of a consulting team advising the government of Canada on how to develop a coordinated supply chain strategy across the country to enhance healthcare capacity, safety and resiliency while managing the impact of COVID-19.

The Rutgers team was composed of Full-Time MBA students Padmaja Nair and Timothy Humata: Part-Time MBA student Yingxi “Sally” Tan and Xue “Andrea” Qin, a recent graduate of the Master of Supply Chain Analytics Program. Gary Branning, who teaches MBA students about the pharmaceutical industry, coached the team.

“This was a very relevant case because it focused on COVID,” said Nair, the team’s captain. It was also challenging, she said, because Canada’s regulations, healthcare system and procurement landscape is so different than in the U.S. “Just trying to make sense of it all was very challenging,” she said.

In Canada, like the U.S. and other parts of the world, the coronavirus pandemic exposed weaknesses in the management of personal protection equipment supplies. The issue was central to the competition.

“These types of challenges really help MBA students apply what they’re learning.” - Padmaja Nair, first-year MBA student studying marketing and pharmaceutical management.

As part of its proposal, the Rutgers team recommended the creation of a new agency that would operate under Health Canada to execute a multi-faceted strategy to address transparency, sustainability and adaptability in the healthcare supply chain, including managing supplies of personal protection equipment. Take a look at the team’s comprehensive proposal.

The team’s solution called for the implementation of a digital infrastructure to manage the procurement and inventory of personal protective equipment – as well as other healthcare supplies. “There was no transparency in the system so there was no sense of inventory or where it was,” Padmaja said.

Padmaja said doing a case competition was one of her goals when she started the Rutgers MBA program last year. “I wanted to be able to apply the foundation courses to solve a real problem,” she said. “These types of challenges really help MBA students apply what they’re learning.”

The competition also allowed her to collaborate with students who brought different experiences and background to the team. “We each tried to harness our own strengths,” she said. Even though the competition was virtual, the team was still required to juggle the requirements of the case with classes and spend marathon sessions preparing their proposal and presentation.

Rutgers shared third place with a team from Erasmus University in the Netherlands. Both teams were awarded $1,000.

Forty-three student teams from across Asia, Australia, Europe and North America participated in the first round of the competition. Eleven teams, including Rutgers, competed in Round 2. Student teams from Maastricht University in the Netherlands and Canada’s McMaster University tied for first place.

- Susan Todd

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