Women's History Month Spotlight: Alison Gulbis, PharmD, BCOP

ASTCT asked Alison Gulbis, PharmD, BCOP questions about what it is like to be a woman in the transplantation and cellular therapy field in celebration of Women's History Month, March 2023. 

What inspired you to enter the BMT and Cellular Therapy field?

As a student in pharmacy school, I had an interest in hematology/oncology, infectious disease, and critical care. Ultimately, I knew my career path in pharmacy would take me down one of those specialty paths. I absolutely loved my hematology/oncology modules, but I was really intimidated by my SCT module in pharmacy school, and I never imagined that I would end up only with SCT as my pharmacy specialty. It was through pharmacy residency that I realized SCT was no longer intimidating and instead very interesting and challenging (in a good way!). I enjoyed that I had to know about the chemotherapy, but also the supportive care issues related to chemotherapy and SCT complication, which included infectious disease and acute care. Being a SCT pharmacist really keeps me on my toes and as a lifelong learner it is the perfect role for me.

How do you inspire others?

In my role as a SCT pharmacy specialist, I work with so many different healthcare professionals and this allows the opportunity to collaborate through teaching, participating in research, and collaborating on initiatives that help our SCT patients. I am passionate about what I do, I embrace challenges, and I love teaching others. I think people around me see this and I hope it inspires them to aim high!

Which living person do you most admire?

The living person I most admire is my mother. My mother was a high school math teacher for over 30 years and she had impeccable work ethic and passion for teaching others. Even though she is retired, she still puts maximum effort into everything she does, and she sets such a great example for her grandkids. It is because of her and observing her drive and work ethic that I was inspired to always put 100% into anything I took on in my life, from my professional career to being a mother.

What does it mean to you to be a woman in this field?

There are a lot of women in the field of pharmacy, so I feel so honored to be in a profession with so many intelligent, strong, driven women. I feel quite lucky to be a SCT pharmacist and though many of the physicians I work with are male, I never felt like being a woman hindered me in any way. I always feel 100% included in the care of our patients at MD Anderson and with research projects and other initiatives within our SCT department and SCT community including ASTCT and other organizations.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My greatest personal achievement has to be my kids! I have two smart, caring kids and they keep me very busy outside of work. They also remind me to stay balanced between work and home life, which is easy to lose sight of in such a busy profession. My biggest professional achievement was receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the ASTCT Pharmacy Special Interest Group. It was such an honor to be nominated and selected by my peers for the award. The ASTCT Pharmacists inspire me everyday to work hard for our patients!

Who are your heroes in real life?

It is difficult to pick just one person, so I will mention two people. The first is the person who hired me 18 years ago into a SCT pharmacy position, Judy Chase, PharmD. Judy is the director of Clinical Pharmacy Services at MD Anderson and it is because of people like her that we have such a robust group of clinical pharmacists at MD Anderson serving so many different cancer types. Her vision to grow our role and expand our reach to better serve the needs of our hematology/oncology patients is inspirational.

The second person is Dr. Elizabeth Shpall, ad-interim chair of the SCT department at MD Anderson. When I first met her 18 years ago, I was so impressed by her wealth of knowledge, her drive, and with all she has done in the field of SCT, most notably with cord blood transplant and cord blood banking and her leadership on our immune effector cell program at MD Anderson. I work with her on several projects and initiatives for our SCT patients and am honored to be her colleague and value her advocacy for the pharmacists on our SCT team. I consider her one of the most influential women in the field SCT and cell therapy.