Kimberly Rhoten, '13, Excels in Health Care Business Competition

It’s no secret that Chicago Law students are regularly proven to be among the best law students in the country, and even the world. What is less expected is that one of our students would find herself edging out almost all the competition in an event for business students.

Impressively, that’s exactly what Kimberly Rhoten, ’13, accomplished in this year’s Biotech and Healthcare Case Competition at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Her team, rounded out by two MBA students at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, earned second place.

Rhoten and her teammates, Gus Granchalek and Yuta Ito, were an unusual team for the competition. Most contestants were full-time MBA students. Rhoten is a law student, of course, and Granchalek and Ito are part-time at Chicago Booth while working full-time jobs. Nontraditional or not, they finished behind only the University of California, Berkeley, in the final standings. Another team from Berkeley won third place, and honorable mentions were given to Kellogg and the University of Cambridge. Rhoten was the only law student in the competition, she said.

“I could not believe we had placed second even while I was walking up to accept the award,” Rhoten said. “We had all been hoping we would at least do better than last place. I don’t think any of us imagined we’d go that far.”

More than 35 teams from 23 schools applied, with only 10 chosen to present before judges on January 26, according to the Kellogg website. Their charge was to give a presentation on the valuation of Contrave, an investigational medicine being evaluated for weight loss. The drug was created by Orexigen, a California biopharmaceutical company; Orexigen’s chief commercial officer, a Kellogg alumnus, was among the judges. Another company is considering buying the drug.

Rhoten, Granchalek, and Ito spent about eight 6-8 hour days preparing for their presentation. They figured out how much the drug is worth, analyzed the potential buyer’s assets, researched the market potential and the competition, and delved into many other questions. They presented their findings at the competition, with 20 minutes of presentation and 10 minutes of questions.

Rhoten, a graduate of Berkeley, is in a certificate program for health administration and policy that is a collaboration between the Law School, Booth, the School of Social Service Administration, and the Harris School of Public Policy. Rhoten is the first law student in the program, and she plans to go on to a PhD in public health. Her ultimate goal is to get into academia in the health law or public health areas.

The certificate program is where Rhoten met Granchalek and Ito. None of them had ever done a competition like this before.

One of Rhoten’s jobs was to put the presentation together, she said. Granchalek, who works in internal consulting at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, said her different perspective was a huge help.

“She asks different questions than we will,” Granchalek said. “She will shoot holes in things we don’t assume to have a hole in it. I firmly believe that a couple of MBAs sitting in a room are pretty valuable, but the minute you add a different dimension, it gets a lot more valuable. And Kimberly was definitely that dimension.”

For example, Rhoten was the team member to bring up the consequences of the Affordable Care Act; because of it, more low-income people would be insured and able to afford an anti-obesity drug, which adds to the product’s market potential.

Rhoten said her Law School education helped her as she organized facts and thought about her target audience.

“It was really similar, I think, to how you would prepare for litigation,” Rhoten said. Plus now, “I can now look at a business spreadsheet valuation and comepletely understand it.”

She said she walked away with important knowledge for her future education and career in public health or health law.

“The experience completely changed my perspective on health law and corporations.”

Dean of Students Amy Gardner said she was thrilled, but not surprised, to hear about Rhoten’s accomplishment.

“We are really proud of Kimberly,” she said. “She shows that our students have the analytical skills and intelligence to shine in not only law but many other fields as well.”