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Carrie Martin Blanchard, PharmD, MPH

Research Assistant Professor

Carrie Blanchard is an implementation science specialist working within the Center for Medication Optimization. Her research interests focus on how to implement and scale medication optimization services and value-based care models. She is passionate about learning how these innovations can impact health outcomes, solve current public health issues, and lead to policy change.

Tell me about your relevant background and experiences?

After finishing my chemistry degree from Wake Forest University, I worked at the National Institutes of Health for about three years conducting retrovirology research. I was mainly engaged in benchtop research and I really fell in love with research design and research itself. During this experience I was wrestling with whether to pursue the PhD route or a more clinical route, and I realized that my passions were deeply rooted in interacting with people and with patients. Although I enjoyed small molecule research, I realized I was a bigger picture person. This is what drew me to pharmacy school and the pharmacy profession – being able to combine chemistry, biology, and interacting with patients on a larger level.

After finishing my PharmD, I completed a post-doctoral fellowship in implementation science concurrently with a Master of Public Health Degree in health policy and management. These two opportunities have informed what I do today – helping to implement pharmacy services that can impact public health issues.

What is your position within the school?

I am currently a research assistant professor in the Center for Medication Optimization (CMO) at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. In this role, I conduct research that focuses on how to implement and scale medication optimization services and value-based care models. I’m passionate about learning how these innovations can impact health outcomes, solve current public health issues, and lead to policy change. In addition, I lead the research and educational development for CMO. First, I work closely with our UNC partners across the street to identify and carry out scholarship opportunities. This helps us build a real-world research laboratory for us to carry out research. Secondly, I work with students, I love working with the students. We hold numerous programs to accommodate students, including the CMO round tables, during which we host students to discuss relevant topics; the RASP honors program, which consists of a mentored research project that students longitudinally go through for 3 semesters; as well as assisting other students who are simply interested in learning more about the health care system, value-based care, and the shifting environment that pharmacists will likely encounter. Lastly, I serve as the director of the Health Policy Fellowship Program.

What attracted you to the role you are in today?

I chose to do research at UNC because I think that UNC is at the cutting edge of moving the needle for the pharmacy profession. Those at the school of pharmacy are understanding of what it really takes to implement effective health care services, and the importance of studying the implementation process so that these services can be scalable and replicable. Additionally, there is a lot of interdisciplinary collaboration that occurs across campus. So, I work with our colleagues at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, the UNC School of Medicine, and our colleagues in practice at the hospital. These are opportunities that I wasn’t necessarily able to find elsewhere.

What projects are you working on right now and what do you want the public to know about your research?

One of the biggest projects I have been working on over the past two years is the Comprehensive Medication Management (CMM) in Primary Care grant, sponsored by the American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP). During this project we focused on implementing CMM within primary care and ambulatory care settings by embedding clinical pharmacists in 40 primary care practice sites across 4 different states. One of my major tasks within this project was to define the practice model. Ultimately, we worked to create what we released as the Common Language Document for the pharmacist patient care process. The need for this document was revealed during some of our baseline analysis that showed that not all of the pharmacists were carrying out the same core components of the intervention. We realized that we needed to take a step back and really define what it was that we were asking them to do, and once we did that, we could really see whether the pharmacists had fidelity to the intervention.

In addition to this project, I am working with two different health care systems to help pilot and evaluate their at-home medication management services that utilize pharmacy telehealth. These services involve deploying a community health worker or pharmacy technician into the patients’ home in an effort to truly meet the patients where they are. These patients are generally high-risk patients who are the top spenders in their respective ACOs or healthcare systems, who could benefit from closer follow-up. The patients then meet with a pharmacist via telecommunication, who conducts CMM and subsequently coordinates with the health care team to ensure that all medications have been optimized and drug therapy problems identified.

In summary, this work is important to the public and to the profession because we are really starting to meet patients where they are – in their communities and in their homes. We are extending services to people who may not have previously received personalized services. We are using pharmacists and other non-traditional health care providers to address some of the care gaps that currently exist. Ultimately, we are blending a public health perspective with pharmacy services to provide more wholistic care.

What do you enjoy most about what you are doing?

I enjoy feeling like I am making a difference to patients, providers, and students. I wasn’t a student that long ago, so I can relate to feeling like the school was emphasizing innovation. At CMO, we really are practicing what we preach and making sure that we are bringing that innovation to fruition, in part, by closing the 17 year-gap that it takes for evidence-based practices to be realized within real world practice.

If you won the lottery what would you buy?

First, I would pay off my student loans, and then I would invest in the pharmacy profession, create scholarships for students, and get involved in other philanthropic work. I would also buy an event space for weddings.

If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I would eat mushrooms, specifically truffle mushrooms. I went truffle hunting in France this summer, and I absolutely love mushrooms.

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