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Pharmacy resident in obstetrics debuts at Spokane hospital

By Lorraine Nelson, WSU Spokane

blum-80SPOKANE, Wash. – Alyson Blum is breaking new ground as the first pharmacy resident in obstetrics at the College of Pharmacy.

Alyson Blum photo by Lori Maricle, College of Pharmacy.

At first, physicians who were visiting their pregnant patients at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center did not understand why a pharmacist had moved into an office on the labor and delivery floor and was associating with them, but Blum quickly summarized her value.

She told the physicians that as a pharmacist she is skilled at finding and reviewing literature to support medication decisions. As they got used to seeing her with the hospital’s medical residents and fellows, they started asking her to review literature on drug-related decisions.

“It was an easy way for them to engage me,” Blum said. “My assignment for this first year of this residency is to ‘look, listen and learn.’”

Alumnus funds pilot effort

She talks on the phone weekly with Gerald G. Briggs, a 1968 alumnus of the Washington State University College of Pharmacy from California who is an expert in obstetrics pharmacy and who co-created a textbook on the subject.

Blum’s residency was created after Briggs identified the benefit of pharmacists working on the team with OB doctors and nurses. Briggs personally funded the one-year WSU OB pharmacy residency with the goal to demonstrate the value of a pharmacist on OB teams and to develop a “best practice” model of care that can then be duplicated in other hospitals.

“He quizzes me so he can focus my learning for the next week,” Blum said.

Briggs spoke personally to two of the physicians at the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Clinic in Spokane to explain the idea for the obstetrics residency, Blum said. The other person instrumental in creating the residency was Linda Garrelts MacLean, associate dean at the college, who teamed with the director of pharmacy at the Providence hospital to design the residency.

Teaching, doing research while learning

All the legwork was done when Blum started the residency in mid-July, so she dove into learning about obstetric pharmacy from the online course Briggs and MacLean developed a few years ago from Briggs’ textbook.

“We get a few lectures in pharmacy school about it, but this is a very specialized field and there is a lot to know,” Blum said.

She will give lectures in three classes in the doctor of pharmacy program this year and help a third-year student create a formal presentation based on an obstetrics patient. But she is spending most of her time at the hospital where, in addition to learning how she can fit as part of the obstetrics team, she is designing a research project exploring the value a clinical pharmacist specialist brings to the team.

She said nurses on the floor have been “welcoming and wonderful and excited to have me here.” Physicians are learning what she has to offer and she now goes to their journal clubs with the medical residents and OB fellows.

“I am grateful to the Maternal-Fetal Medicine perinatologists for their work to incorporate me into their team,” she said. “It has been a rewarding experience.”

Scaling steep learning curve

Blum is from Newbury Park, Calif., and moved to Seattle where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in cellular and molecular biology – with a minor in chemistry and quantitative science – from the University of Washington. She worked as a pharmacy tech at Costco before pursuing a pharmacy degree at WSU.

She heard about the new residency shortly before graduating in May.

“It’s really amazing to be at the forefront of something new,” she said. “It has been a steep learning curve, and I am still learning; but I know I am making a difference.”

Briggs’ textbook is titled, “Diseases, Complications and Drug Therapy in Obstetrics.” The online course, by the same name, can be found on the college’s website at


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