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Kyana Steward – Infectious Disease Pharmacist, Antimicrobial Stewardship

What makes your career path unique?

I entered pharmacy after exposure while training as an engineer. The research I was working on at the time introduced me to the areas of pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics, which explain how a medication works on the body and what the body can do to a medication once it enters the body.

My understanding of these core concepts led me to pursue a career where I could work daily to figure out ways to improve these two parameters to make sure that bacteria, viruses, and/or fungi that cause infection are killed in the fastest way possible.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

I start my days looking up information in various patient charts to figure out what type of infection they have and if the current antimicrobial agent is appropriate or not. During this process I may reach out to providers to ask them to change or adjust therapy.

I also attend several meetings with hospital administrators, physicians, nurses, and other pharmacists to design treatment algorithms, create new functionality within electronic medical records, and to find systematic ways to improve our use of antibiotic therapy within the hospital.

I teach classes some days to medical students and often have pharmacy residents and other trainees with me throughout the day learning about antibiotic therapy.

In the afternoons I usually visit the microbiology lab within the hospital to review the bacteria growing from patient-specific cultures to help me make decisions about what therapy to use.

I then close out my day by attending physical rounds on patients with my team that consists of an ID physician, ID medical fellow, medical students, residents, and interns.

Describe the most rewarding day of your career.

The most rewarding day of my career was when I was able to implement a new dosing algorithm for managing pediatric patients on therapy with vancomycin—a drug used to treat staphylococcus infections.

After initiating the new algorithm, one of the hospital physicians notice that his patients were consistently achieving adequate levels of the medication, which prevented them from having to stay two extra days in the hospital.

It was very rewarding to see the impact of my intervention being realized in actual patients and making a difference in care.

Describe the most challenging day of your career.

The most challenging day of my career was losing a patient to a very aggressive form of a yeast that had grown in their brain. Despite my efforts to optimize treatment with antifungal therapy, the patient outcome was not positive.

It is very difficult and humbling to know that despite all efforts there are some things that we cannot control. Even in this challenge, the patient’s family was very appreciative of all our efforts.

What most attracted you to pharmacy over other healthcare professions?

I was not initially interested in becoming a health care professional. In fact, I made my way into the pharmacy field because of research interests that sparked a desire to transition into clinical pharmacy practice.

I see clinical pharmacy practice as a way to forge a connection between benchtop research and application to patients. The opportunity to see research directly translate into improved patient outcomes was my primary attraction.

What steps did you take to enter into this career path?

Before attending pharmacy school, I earned a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Southern University and A&M College and a Master’s of Science in Environmental Engineering from University of Florida.

I then obtained my Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Houston, and PGY-1 residency in Huntsville, Alabama.

Following my residency, I had a myriad of clinical and faculty positions that eventually led me to the sub-specialty areas of pediatrics, oncology/BMT, and infectious diseases in both pediatric and adult patients.

What advice would you give to a student entering pharmacy school?

My advice to students entering pharmacy school is to be open minded throughout all of your experiences and take every opportunity to explore non-traditional pharmacist roles in the pharmaceutical industry, clinical research settings, and fellowship opportunities.