UNMC med students shine at national competition

A team of UNMC College of Medicine students recently earned finalist honors in the Midwest Healthcare Case Competition 2023.

Four UNMC second-year med students and one M4, collectively calling themselves The Leavenworth Consulting Group, placed fourth out of 51 competing teams and 229 total applicants. The “Shark Tank”-type competition is organized by a trio of health care consulting firms and judged by upper management at biotechnology companies, including Genentech, Eli Lilly, and Trinity Life Sciences.

The teams were charged with solving the health care-oriented case prompt, “Enhance equitable access to disease-modifying therapies (DMT) for patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).”

DMTs can be life-changing for MS patients – but astronomical costs put them out of reach for many. Drug companies sometimes offer financial assistance to overcome this burden – but the mountain of specific paperwork required can be just as challenging for many patients as the cost itself.

“The pathway to get onto these programs is really complicated,” said Noah Bastola, one of The Leavenworth Consulting Group.

The team’s solution? An app that navigates this odyssey on behalf of the patient.

“My Side,” a prospective data sharing platform, would use Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) to access the patient’s information while searching for and matching it with resources – be they through medical insurance or drug company financial assistance.

The app would handle paperwork on behalf of the patient and handle not just the initial application, but also (with provider approval) the inevitable appeal.

A streamlined process also benefits providers and manufacturers, the team said.

Bastola, who completed an internship at the UNMC Center for Intelligent Health Care, said such an app is not just a pie in the sky solution, but a real possibility.

“We’ve done the groundwork to make this application,” he said. “I have a little bit of experience with mobile app development and with FHIR. This is something that is very doable.”

The team put together resumes and a cover letter to get into the contest, then had a week to put together a presentation when given the problem prompt. Their recorded pitch put them into the semifinals.

They presented live in the semifinals and finals.

In addition to the project and exposure to bigwigs from consulting firms and biotech companies, the team also got to network with peers from other medical schools.

“I had a blast,” team member Stephanie Dong said.

Will they make this app a reality? There’s not time right now, in the thick of med school. But the team hopes they – or someone at UNMC – can take this idea to the finish line.

“This is something that needs to be explored further,” Bastola said.