photo of alyson blumSPOKANE, Wash. – Obstetrics (OB) specialist and alumna Alyson Blum is a new clinical assistant professor for the doctor of pharmacy program at Washington State University Health Sciences Spokane.

“Pregnant women can be an underserved population,” she said. Any practitioner might feel intimidated providing care to a pregnant woman due to the potential for complications with the baby, she explained: “We want our graduating pharmacists to feel more comfortable with them.”

Blum will guest lecture, inserting pregnancy topics into many courses. Eventually she will instruct the online OB course that WSU offers to students as an elective and to health care practitioners for continuing education. (See http://www.pharmacy.wsu.edu/online/index.html)

Her research focus also will be obstetrics: she will study the cost effectiveness of having a pharmacist in charge of managing a patient’s diabetes medication therapy. Pharmacists typically have more time than physicians for patient education, she said, freeing doctors to focus on diagnosis and complex cases. This translates into better patient care, which is what she aims to show through her research.

Alumnus funds OB residency

Blum’s interest in OB began as she was earning her doctor of pharmacy degree at WSU. It became her specialty as she worked with Gerald Briggs, WSU pharmacy alumnus and OB expert, during a one-year, post-graduate specialty residency in OB.

“As a student pharmacist I had a strong interest in diabetes and pediatrics,” she said. “The OB residency blended the two, since having good control of blood sugar levels during pregnancy is so important and can have such a huge impact on babies.”

Briggs personally funded the WSU OB pharmacy residency that Blum participated in last year. His goal is to demonstrate the value of a pharmacist on OB teams and develop a “best practice” model of care that can be duplicated in other hospitals.

“High blood sugar is so toxic for baby,” said Blum. “Pregnant women need and want someone who really understands insulin. A drug expert (pharmacist) makes a good fit in that role.”

WSU pharmacists inspired attendance

Blum’s faculty appointment is part of a pilot project also sponsored by Briggs.

Blum obtained her bachelor’s degree in cellular and molecular biology from the University of Washington and worked as a pharmacy technician at Costco for six years before pursing her doctor of pharmacy degree at WSU.

“Working as a tech, hands down my favorite pharmacists to work with got their degrees from WSU,” she said. “So I knew I wanted to come to WSU for my pharmacy education.

“WSU has a great community and does a lot to support their student pharmacists and give them as many opportunities as possible to be great leaders and practitioners,” she said. “Now I am really excited to contribute to that.”

In addition to teaching and research, Blum will serve as a faculty preceptor for student pharmacists on fourth-year rotations. She just finished her fourth year participating at Camp STIX in Spokane, a rotation that gives student pharmacists the opportunity to serve kids with diabetes.

She also will be a preceptor for a specialty rotation in March to Guatemala, where students participate on a cleft lip and palate surgery team.

[August 6, 2015] By: Lori J. Maricle