Research pharmacist becomes trailblazer in personalized pharmaceuticals

June 5, 2018

This week’s Up-and-Comer is Krista Bohlen, director of personalized pharmaceutical medicine at Avera Institute for Human Genetics.

Name: Krista Bohlen

Age: 33

Hometown: Jackson, Minn.

What brought you to Sioux Falls?

While I was a pharmacy resident at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., my husband found his dream job in Sioux Falls as a flight paramedic. After residency, I took the position as Avera Research Institute’s first research pharmacist in 2010 serving cancer clinical research trials, genetics and investigator-initiated studies. Meanwhile, Avera Institute for Human Genetics — AIHG — was gaining momentum and growing in genetics and pharmacogenomics work, such that in 2013 I devoted my efforts to them and became their first director of personalized pharmaceutical medicine in 2014. While there have certainly been challenges to being the first in each of my positions, it has been exciting to work with our strong AIHG team and blaze the trail in pharmacogenomics.

What keeps you in Sioux Falls?

My husband and I like the strong health care environment here in Sioux Falls. We also both enjoyed growing up in small towns, and Sioux Falls feels like a small town but with access to a lot more.

What’s your favorite thing about your job?

I love having the opportunity to grow our pharmacogenomics program and incorporate technology solutions in a way that gives more patients access to tests like GeneFolio. This simple, yet innovative blood test uses DNA to predict which medications match a person’s unique makeup for the best treatment. GeneFolio was inspired by pharmacogenomics – the study of your DNA in order to understand how your body will metabolize medications.

I also enjoy helping patients get the best treatment while helping them understand their results to empower their self-advocacy. Once people understand the value of pharmacogenomics, they appreciate the immense potential it has to transform health care. We’ve made great strides over the past few years, but I think we’ve only tapped into less than 1 percent of its potential so far.

How did you get connected to your industry?

I first learned about pharmacogenomics in pharmacy school at South Dakota State University from AIHG’s chief scientific officer, Gareth Davies. In residency, I got the opportunity to participate in a grant-funded project to teach pharmacists more about its application in patient care. I was intrigued because it offered a good explanation for why patients react differently to medications. But back then, the testing was expensive. I’ve been thoroughly immersed in the industry by working with our genetics laboratory positioned within a health system and learning the facets of education, implementation and clinician utilization.

Today, at Avera, we believe that pharmacogenomics testing must be available to everyone who needs it, so we continue to work on efficiencies and technologies to streamline its availability and utilization.

Describe Avera in three words.

Passionate. Innovative. Transformative.

What’s one business you’d like to see in Sioux Falls that isn’t here now?

I’d like to have a Trader Joe’s in Sioux Falls for more food options and variety.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I see myself continuing to help lead the charge for affordable, understandable and accessible personalized medicine at Avera and beyond.

Research pharmacist becomes trailblazer in personalized pharmaceuticals

This week’s Up-and-Comer is Krista Bohlen, director of personalized pharmaceutical medicine at the Avera Institute for Human Genetics.

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