FCCP Project: Real World Client Experience Helping a Regional Medical Center

Sydnor GammonAs an applicant to business schools in the fall of 2012, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in healthcare consulting.  I worked in clinic administration for an academic medical center where I found my passion for discovering and implementing best operational practices across healthcare systems.  Healthcare consulting represents an opportunity to do just that.  In learning about the Fuqua School of Business, I quickly realized I could gain the tools I needed to be a successful healthcare consultant at Fuqua through the HSM program and the wide variety of learning opportunities.

One of the many experiences where I could explore a career in healthcare consulting was through the Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum (FCCP).  My original goal for participating in the FCCP was to obtain real world client experience as practice for my summer internship. FCCP offers a wide variety of projects that span many disciplines and functions, including several in health management.  The FCCP faculty does their best to match students with their top project choices and I secured mine.

I am on a team with two other Fuqua MBA students and a Duke Master of Public Policy student.  Our project involves helping a regional medical center decide how to best aid an adjacent county whose local hospital has closed, leaving 9000 citizens without easy access to medical care.  While my initial motivation for taking an FCCP course was to better understand the world of healthcare consulting, this project has offered an additional experience. I have learned a great deal about the public health landscape in the U.S. and the challenges in addressing disparities in healthcare access and affordability.

To help our team develop a strategy for our client, the FCCP faculty lead weekly courses during Spring 1 that introduce important themes in consulting, such as client relationship management, data gathering tools, and strategic implementation tactics.  My team’s faculty member has expertise in the healthcare consulting field and we meet regularly with him to discuss our project’s challenges. As a team, we also meet weekly to work on project deliverables and for videoconference calls with the client to update him on our progress.

Our work has required creative approaches from the team.  Much of the data that we need to make a sound recommendation is unavailable, requiring that we make substitutes.  We also have encountered challenges as circumstances at the client side have evolved, causing us to shift our understanding of the problem.  Because our project relates to public health issues, we have had to consider local politics and the perspectives of various regional stakeholders, adding an extra layer of complexity to navigating the organizational dynamics of our client.  While our project has proved challenging, our professor reminds us that it is not unlike a real world client consulting experience where consultants must navigate organizational dynamics, political environments, and evolving client demands.  In this way, I have been able to fulfill my original goal of joining FCCP to gain client experience.

With five weeks left on the project, I am eager to deliver a recommendation that will be valued and useful.  I have appreciated my FCCP experience as a “learning by doing” application of classroom teachings and as an opportunity to expand my understanding of the health sector.

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