Editor's note: American Pharmacists Month is an opportunity for APhA to spotlight our diverse members with a new series of Q&As on pharmacist.com.
Laura Bowers, PharmD, MBA, BCPS, served in the Air Force for several years as a combat flight medic before leaving active duty to pursue a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. After graduation, she received her PharmD and MBA, as well as completing a postgraduate year 1 (PGY-1) residency with a focus in ambulatory care—all from Campbell University in North Carolina.
Bowers started her career in 2008 as the only ambulatory care clinical pharmacist providing disease state management services in one the family medicine clinics at Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, NC. Laura has helped establish the anticoagulation clinic and hospital anticoagulation guidelines, developed group diabetes classes, and greatly expanded a pharmacist-run chronic disease state management service. Over the years, she has been heavily involved in the PGY-1 pharmacy residency program and has been precepting student pharmacists, medical residents, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners.
Her passion is caring for our military population and their family members, as she knows from personal experience that they have sacrificed so much for our safety and freedom.
Bowers is an APhA member. APhA offers federal pharmacists a 50% discount on dues in recognition of their service and sacrifices to our country. Federal technicians also receive a discounted rate.
What were the specific needs in Army clinical pharmacy that you felt needed to be addressed, and how did you go about spearheading those efforts?
Diabetes management. We see not only active duty, but also their family members, retirees, and their spouses. I felt that this was an area where I might be able to assist both the patients and the providers. Education is key, so I started providing diabetes medication lectures to our medical residents and attending physicians. I quickly became integrated with our nursing staff and nurse case managers, and they were key in helping me identify our high-risk diabetic patients. The military is very team-oriented, so our physicians were very open to having me assist in the co-management of their patients. After getting my footing, I knew I had to determine if there was value in the services I provided by measuring outcomes. One of the pharmacy residents I was precepting designed her residency project to look at surrogate outcomes such as A1C [glycosylated hemoglobin], blood pressure goals, etc. The data collected demonstrated a significant improvement in these markers with pharmacist intervention, and she was able to publish the data in a peer-reviewed journal. To expand on patient education aside from the one-on-one encounters, I coordinated with our nutrition staff to provide monthly group diabetes classes in order to capture a larger portion of our diabetic patient population.
What is it like teaching diabetes group classes?
So fun and fulfilling! The groups I help educate are very interactive, and we have great discussions. They get to meet others that have the same diabetes concerns as they do. It’s always very satisfying to hear their feedback, especially when they tell me how much they have learned during class after having been diagnosed for years.
What made you get re-engaged with APhA?
APhA has so many great resources and benefits for pharmacists. I love all the news updates and publications, such as Pharmacy Today, JAPhA, and APhA DrugInfoLine, which keep me up to date. It is an excellent way to network with other pharmacists in your field. That’s why I felt it was important to renew my membership (and the membership discounts on products also help!).
For our student pharmacists or new practitioners: What piece of advice did you receive that you wish you hadn't ignored early in your career?
Networking early on! While developing my MTM [medication therapy management] services, it would have developed much smoother if I would have reached out to others to get ideas on how they designed their practices instead of reinventing the wheel and learning through trial and error.
As a trailblazer, what's next after this adventure?
I’m always looking for ways to become more well-rounded and challenge myself. Army pharmacy has provided me with many opportunities to further develop my knowledge and clinical skills and supported me at my practice site. So, I would love to gain greater insight and expand my role in Army pharmacy leadership. It would be very exciting to be part of the team working to develop methods that could cultivate the growth of the pharmacist and advance the future role of clinical pharmacy.