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Nursing, MBA grad named College of Business and Economics ‘outstanding alumni’

Trista Blanchard was recently recognized as one of the 2024 College of Business and Economics Outstanding Alumni at the college’s annual reception.

A double Bronco, Blanchard is also an alum of the School of Nursing and a registered nurse currently working with Novo Nordisk as a senior director of marketing. With years of expertise in rare conditions like hemophilia and multiple sclerosis, she is running their first sponsored global genetic testing program.

Blanchard’s career spanned medical device and pharmaceutical research and sales before she transitioned to marketing. She’s worked in a variety of organizations from small start-ups to major companies like Eli Lilly and Co.

“This career is an expansion of being a patient advocate and a patient educator on a really large scale,” Blanchard said. “I’ve been very, very fortunate to work for companies that I felt had patient centricity and patients at the core of what they do…it’s been an incredible career.”

Falling into a unique career

First becoming a Bronco in the 1990s, Blanchard completed the licensed practical nursing program in the School of Nursing before bridging to the associates degree program. She continued on to earn her bachelor’s in nursing from Boise State as well.

Headshot of Trista Blanchard.
Trista Blanchard is a registered nurse and a senior level marketing director.

When she graduated, Blanchard wasn’t sure where she wanted to work, but she knew she didn’t want to go into hospital nursing. She ended up working in clinical and pharmaceutical research, coordinating pharmaceutical and medical device trials in practitioner offices in the Boise area.

“I love patient care, [working in a hospital] just didn’t speak to me,” she said. “I kind of fell into this and I’ve loved every minute of the journey.”

Throughout her career, no one ever questioned why Blanchard, a licensed nurse, was working in an area of business.

“Nurses tend to be highly respected once they get in [the industry] because we keep the patient at the forefront,” she said.

She decided to get her MBA “on a fluke” after already being deep in the business world for years, she said. She was helping her daughter fill out college applications and, to demonstrate the process, Blanchard filled out one for Boise State’s MBA program.

When she received an email notifying her of when classes started, she figured now was as good a time as ever.

“I went ahead and started the first class just to see what would happen and ended up finishing it,” she said. “I love Boise State. I think it is an absolutely phenomenal school.”

Blanchard graduated with a Master of Business Administration in 2022.

Building an MBA on a nursing foundation

Before Blanchard started the MBA program, she learned most of her business skills on the job. “A lot of the things that I’ve fumbled around and knew a little bit about, the MBA program really helped clear up for me,” she said.

A dean shakes Trista Blanchard's hand and gives her a framed award. Banners on either side of them read Boise State University College of Business and Economics
Blanchard accepted her award and spoke at the COBE luncheon for outstanding graduates and alumni this past April.

She laughs as she admits: “There’s a reason I’m a nurse and not an accountant.” Although she has experience managing massive sales projects and multimillion dollar budgets, “finalizing my MBA certainly formalized those skills,” she said.

Unlike students who progress straight to their MBA after earning their bachelor’s, Blanchard is glad for the time she spent employed before pursuing her master’s. Much of her coursework involved case studies, and she found that they made more sense because of the knowledge she had from working on-the-job.

Blanchard’s current commercialization and marketing responsibilities at Novo Nordisk are more project management-based than most nursing roles. But her multifaceted work aligns with traditional nursing goals of patient education and disease prevention. She is creating education for early-identification and treatment of a rare disease affecting the liver and kidneys.

She designed the testing program, coordinated with vendors, negotiated legal contracts and compliance requirements, spearheaded the design of marketing materials and NovoDetect websites, created patient education pieces (like demonstration videos), trained the sales team, and operationalized the program to launch in October 2023.

Becoming a nurse marketer

But it was Blanchard’s nursing education from Boise State that prepared her to thrive before she entered the field. Her strong clinical foundation allows her to pivot easily from one specialty to another throughout her diverse career.

Two rows of framed awards hang on the length of a wall.
Short, framed bios of COBE’s Outstanding Alumni hang in the hall of the college’s career services center.

While many marketers need time to learn the clinical in’s-and-out’s of their pharmaceuticals, Blanchard can “hit the ground running,” she said. Her knowledge of diagnoses, diseases and clinical impacts are skills that “transfer right away” to whatever project she’s working on.

She’s also found that nursing skills parallel her marketing responsibilities. For example, when she drafts an annual brand plan – coming up with a year’s marketing plan based on market research, tactics for rollout and identifying patients’ unmet needs – it’s a lot like drafting a patient’s plan of care.

While some might assume marketers only care about the bottom line, Blanchard prioritizes patients’ wellbeing through transparent communication and advocacy.

“As a nurse I have been trained in patient care, patient education and patient advocacy, so they are the reason I get up every day,” she said. “I think of tactics, messages, and what the patient needs on a day-to-day basis.”

Rewarding patient stories

Over the past few years, Blanchard herself has had to navigate complex medical conditions from the patient perspective. Even as a nurse with expert knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry, she found it immensely difficult.

“The last couple of years have been extremely eye opening to me into what patients are dealing with on a day to day basis,” she said. “You have to advocate for yourself and our health system is so hard to navigate.”

So she “doubled down” on the patient education part of her work. She aims to empower patients with the ability to advocate for themselves and get the appropriate care they need in the midst of perplexing healthcare systems.

“And it’s not because we have practitioners and nurses that aren’t doing their job,” Blanchard said. “It’s the fact that they have ten minutes to see a patient…A patient has to know how to make the most of those ten minutes to get what they need prioritized out of that appointment.”

Over the course of her career, Blanchard has seen positive, dramatic change in patient-centered treatments. Hearing patient success stories is what makes her work worthwhile.

“I navigate systems and teach caregivers and patients to be self advocates in our healthcare system and that is the most rewarding, to have a patient come back and say ‘I was able to have a discussion with a provider that led to a diagnosis that led to an appropriate treatment that staved off [an organ transplant].’ It’s incredible.”

Interested in this career path?

To those looking for a unique nursing role outside of bedside practice, Blanchard’s biggest piece of advice is network, network, network.

“I’ve met a lot of nurses over time that I’ve helped get into the industry or find a place in the industry,” she said.

She also emphasizes connecting with others through LinkedIn, professional societies or even the pharmaceutical reps they might encounter in their workplaces. The bottom line is to remain open to whatever possibilities come your way.

“There are so many different things you can do: the medical side, the commercial side, specializing in professional marketing, consumer marketing,” Blanchard said. “You may not know where you want to be, but get that foot in the door and you will open a tremendous amount of opportunities to move forward.”