Interview with Kimberly Blumenthal, MD
2016 - The AAAAI Foundation & Dr. Phillip Lieberman Faculty Development Award
Kimberly Blumenthal, MD
Massachusetts General Hospital
Project: “New Approaches to Beta-Lactam Allergy Research”
$240,000 paid over 3 years
Award Term: July 2016-June 2019
What is your research focused on and what are you hoping to discover?
Patients who report that they are allergic to penicillin get more broad spectrum, less effective, and more toxic antibiotics, which can lead to more resistant bacteria colonization and infection, health-care associated infections, and increased healthcare costs. But, of the 32 million patients in the US who report a penicillin allergy, less than 5% of patients are truly allergic.
My research focuses on both reported and true allergic reactions to penicillin and related beta-lactam antibiotics to further our knowledge of the epidemiology and impact of these drug allergies on patient outcomes and cost of care. I use methods of clinical epidemiology, bioinformatics, and simulation/decision science to study drug allergies, specifically starting with penicillin allergy. I am building a simulation model that will project changes in both clinical outcomes and costs that would occur if different US policies were adopted around the use of allergy procedures, such as penicillin skin testing.
Pictured: Kimberly Blumenthal, MD and AAAAI President Thomas Fleisher, MD FAAAAI, at the 2016 Foundation Benefit.
Why did you choose Allergy/Immunology as your field of study?
My interests in Allergy/Immunology stem from my experiences during Internal Medicine residency at Massachusetts General Hospital. I saw first-hand two common problems with drug allergy. First, many inpatients have long and poorly-defined lists of reported drug allergies. Of these reported allergies, penicillin was the most common. I saw how reported allergies – even if not true or concerning – impacted patient care. In the case of penicillin allergy, patients were prescribed antibiotics like vancomycin or clindamycin, which resulted too often in more adverse reactions and more clinical failures. Second, for patients who developed allergic reactions to medications in the hospital, determining the causative drug and how to clearly document the reaction posed a clinical challenge.
Given my interest in drug allergy research that is linked to improving clinical care, I chose to practice Allergy/Immunology in an academic tertiary care referral center, study the epidemiology and impact of drug allergy, and apply allergy specialist knowledge to improve the care of all patients with reported drug hypersensitivities in our healthcare system.
Who are your mentors?
I have been fortunate to have a research mentor who is an expert in decision analysis and cost-effectiveness analysis, Rochelle Walensky, MD, Co-Director of the Medical Practice Evaluation Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, a practicing Infectious Disease clinician, and professor at Harvard Medical School. I have also benefitted from the experiences and advice of my other role models and mentors at Massachusetts General Hospital, including Aleena Banerji, MD, Aidan A. Long, MD, FAAAAI, Elizabeth A. Mort, MD and Erica Seiguer Shenoy, MD, PhD, and my chief, Andrew D. Luster, MD PhD.
How do you hope this grant money will assist in your career development?
At face value, this award provides me with the fundamental financial support to grow my science, and develop a research program that uses clinical epidemiology and simulation as it relates to allergic and immunologic diseases broadly, and drug allergy specifically. However, this grant provides support that goes beyond the financial commitment by raising the profile of clinical research methods and the public health problem of penicillin allergy. Importantly, receiving this grant additionally means that the AAAAI Foundation believes in my work, which in itself motivates me to discover, produce, and work towards becoming an expert in this research space.