Students draft business plan for WCU health clinic

Judy Neubrander (center), director of the School of Nursing, thanks business students, from left, Ashley Mull, Preda Siri, Brianna Valenti and Ryan Grace. (Photo courtesy Marie Huff)

Judy Neubrander (center), director of the School of Nursing, thanks business students, from left, Ashley Mull, Preda Siri, Brianna Valenti and Ryan Grace. (Photo courtesy Marie Huff)

Recommendations in a 100-page business plan created by Western Carolina University seniors are helping guide development of a self-sustaining primary care health clinic in the university’s Health and Human Sciences Building.

“The plan is truly helping us move forward on planning, developing and implementing clinics in the new building, and it all started with a student project,” said Marie Huff, interim dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences.

Judy Neubrander, director of the School of Nursing, shared her vision for the clinic in the new Health and Human Sciences Building with Ed Wright, associate professor of global management and strategy in the College of Business, and Wright connected her with a team of business students in a management capstone course.

Taking on the project were Ryan Grace, a senior from Merrimack, N.H., majoring in entrepreneurship; Ashley Mull, a senior from Sylva majoring in accounting; Preda Siri, a senior from Bridgetown, Conn., majoring in accounting; and Brianna Valenti, a senior from Indian Trail majoring in entrepreneurship.

With Wright as their faculty sponsor, the students spent the semester working on the project and invested so much time on the effort that they came to be known as “Team Awesome.”

The team explored the needs of the WCU School of Nursing, such as opportunities for hands-on student training, as well as available services and needs of five regional public health departments and MedWest-Harris hospital. In addition, the students investigated the specific logistics of developing a clinic such as cost, revenue, billing, supplies and personnel. They interviewed and visited staff at regional medical and health practices to gain an understanding of tasks such as how patients are processed and how patient billing works.

“The students have learned how to do research, conduct a business situational analysis, derive appropriate strategies and write a business plan to attract investors,” said Wright. “These skills are readily transferable to industry.”

The resulting plan included such information as a company overview, a strategic and situational analysis and recommendations for developing the clinic.

“This business plan will serve as a catalyst for future grant funding and partnerships,” said Neubrander. “We are very excited to move forward with developing a clinic that will provide much-needed clinic sites for students in the College of Health and Human Sciences.”

Siri said the students who worked on the plan began with little knowledge about the industry but, by the end, felt like experts. He said he particularly has gained more confidence with his interviewing and researching skills. For Mull, experience on the project has helped prepare her for an initiative this summer in which she will produce a marketing and promotions plan and report on the industry for a client.  She said she not only enjoyed researching the industry but also working on a business plan for a client so passionate about what they do.

“It’s very rewarding to know that in the near future our team will look back and say, ‘We helped create this,’” said Mull.