Patient Care Pathfinder
At an early age Ashley DePuy, PHR ’17, lost her father to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a rare disorder also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. The experience was devastating, but character-shaping. Growing up with someone who needed an extra level of care inspired her to pursue a career in healthcare.
The right Rx
At first, she planned to be a medical doctor who would strive to discover the cause of a patient’s illness in order to determine treatment plans. When she enrolled in Temple as an undergraduate, though, DePuy started to develop an interest in the unique role of a pharmacist.
“I learned how better understanding medication could impact not only the disease state, but the patient’s life,” she said. “Temple showed me that pharmacy was the perfect fit for me: I realized that I didn’t want to focus on diagnosing the patient, I wanted to better understand their illness and personal needs to help guide and support their treatment.”
DePuy finished her undergraduate prerequisites in three years and proceeded into pharmacy degree studies. Along the way, her talents and vision were recognized, and she was awarded a Renzulli Scholarship for leadership.
“Temple gave me an environment where I could excel in clinical settings, but also as a pharmacy innovator, educator and advocate,” she said.
During her time at Temple, DePuy was actively involved in research and was able to publish and present various papers. Project topics, such as the impact of an interdisciplinary team on the care of HIV-infected patients as well as the impact of adverse childhood experiences on medication use, are reflective of her motivation to expand the role of a pharmacist and take unique patient factors into consideration when it comes to overall healthcare.
A spoonful of sugar
Temple is also where DePuy was first introduced to the concept of ambulatory care pharmacy, a field where pharmacists can be actively included on the outpatient care team. The elective she took on this topic as well as the clinical rotations she experienced were eye-opening, and the direct interaction with both healthcare providers and patients appealed to her. As she progressed in her training she also saw an opportunity to expand ambulatory care pharmacy in the Philadelphia region, where it is still relatively new.
Today, as an ambulatory clinical pharmacist, she receives referrals from doctors, nurses and social workers to help patients manage their medication following hospital discharge or in between doctor’s appointments. She looks for ways to improve quality of care and patient satisfaction, all while optimizing treatment regimens. She also helps patients overcome barriers to care which can include the high costs of their medications.
One of the most valuable skills DePuy learned at Temple is a technique called motivational interviewing, which has allowed her to effectively communicate with patients to ensure their personal and healthcare needs are met.
“By framing the way you ask a question, such as using an open-ended format to figure out what motivates them, you can learn more about your patient. This in turn allows you both to meld your goals and determine a better approach,” she explained.
Elixir for success
Temple looms large in DePuy’s professional life. She was asked to speak at the 2021 White Coat Ceremony at the School of Pharmacy, where she welcomed the incoming class by sharing her own professional journey. She also regularly mentors and collaborates with her fellow Owls.
Most recently, DePuy helped develop an innovative remote healthcare initiative that has become part of Virtua Integrated Network’s ongoing practice.
“During the pandemic we looked for ways to impact the physical and mental health of high-risk patients from their homes. We’ve done this through remote patient monitoring and telephonic outreach,” she said. “My team evaluates the patient, including vitals and measurements, and brings in a pharmacist when they’re noticing a trend.”
DePuy’s goal is to continue advancing ambulatory care pharmacy services in the region. Many patients have not worked with a pharmacist outside of their retail pharmacy so it can be a foreign concept to them; however, she often encounters patients who are pleasantly surprised to have her as a part of their healthcare team.
“At the end of the day, I’m proud to do this work because I’m able to not only help my patients, but also progress the profession.”