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Ashira D. Blazer, MD

Academic Title:

Assistant Professor

Primary Appointment:


Additional Title:

Assistant Professor


UM Health Center - Rheumatology 16 South Eutaw Street Floor 2 Baltimore, MD 21201

Phone (Primary):




Education and Training

  • Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, MD, 2010

  • Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN, Internship and Residency, Internal Medicine, 2013

  • New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY, Clinical Postdoctoral Fellowship, Rheumatology, 2015

  • New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY, Masters of Science in Clinical Investigation, 2017


Dr. Blazer is an Assistant Professor in the University of Maryland Division of Rheumatology. She co-directs the Lupus Center at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. She has investigated systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) since her fellowship training in 2013, and her laboratory conducts bench-to-bedside translational research aimed at understanding genetic and functional genomic factors impacting SLE pathogenesis in African ancestry patients. Dr. Blazer's lab models genetic risk using SLE peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and vascular endothelial cells to understand the interplay between the inflammation seen in SLE and cellular injury. 

The Blazer Lab has been instrumental in understanding how common mutations in the Apolipoprotein L1 (APOL1) gene increase the risk of vascular disease, kidney disease, and SLE associated organ damage in African ancestry patients. Her translational research lab has shown that SLE-relevant inflammation increases cellular production of APOL1 which, in genetic mutation carrying cells, causes defects in mitochondrial health and inability to complete a cellular maintenance process called autophagy. Importantly, current clinical testing cannot distinguish between kidney injury caused by SLE and kidney injury caused by APOL1 gene mutations. In collaboration with West African physician scientists, the Blazer Lab now aims to use epigenetic profiling on cellular debris present in the urine to identify biomarkers of SLE nephritis and APOL1 associated nephropathy. 

Dr. Blazer supports her research through NIH funding as well as funding from foundations such as the Lupus Research Alliance and The Rheumatology Research Foundation. She has been a dedicated champion of health equity particularly in the African American community. She is passionate about research, teaching, and medical communication, and is active in community outreach and education through multiple national organizations.

Research/Clinical Keywords

Systemic lupus erythematosus, African ancestry, Genetics, Functional Genomics, Health equity

Highlighted Publications

Yip K, Akerman M, Fernandez Ruiz R, Leung N, Algasas H, Qian Y, Blazer, A. Osteonecrosis is associated with APOL1 variants in African Americans with systemic lupus erythematosus. Frontiers in Lupus. 2023;1. doi: 10.3389/flupu.2023.1219277

Lanata CM, Taylor KE, Hurst-Hopf J, Nititham J, Blazer A, Trupin L, et al. Screening of environmental chemicals to characterize exposures in participants with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. Arthritis Rheumatol. 2023. Epub 20231221. doi: 10.1002/art.42779. PubMed PMID: 38129991

Morand, E.F., Fernandez-Ruiz, R., Blazer, A., Niewold, T., Advances in the management of systemic lupus erythematosus. BMJ, 2023. 383: p. e073980

Forrest, I.S., Petrazzini, B., Duffy, A., Park, J., O'Neal, A., Jordan, D., Blazer, A., et al., A machine learning model identifies patients in need of autoimmune disease testing using electronic health records. Nat Commun, 2023. 14(1): p. 2385

Blazer A, Qian Y, Schlegel MP, Algasas H, Buyon JP, Cadwell K, et al. APOL1 variant-expressing endot20927. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2022.769936. PubMed PMID: 36238153; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC9551299.helial cells exhibit autophagic dysfunction and mitochondrial stress. Front Genet. 2022;13:769936. Epub 2022

Lanata, C.M., A. Blazer, and L.A. Criswell, The Contribution of Genetics and Epigenetics to Our Understanding of Health Disparities in Rheumatic Diseases. Rheum Dis Clin North Am, 2021. 47(1): p. 65-81

Blazer, A., Dey, D., Nwaukoni, J., et al., Apolipoprotein L1 risk genotypes in Ghanaian patients with systemic lupus erythematosus: a prospective cohort study. Lupus Sci Med, 2021. 8(1).




Additional Publication Citations

Research Interests

Dr. Blazer's research interests are in studying the biologic and genetic determinants of systemic lupus erythematosus severity in patients of African ancestry. Her current work focuses on mutations in the Apolipoprotein L1 (APOL1) gene, which are exceptionally common in those of West African heritage and increase the risk of kidney and heart disease. She has forged multiple international collaborations with rheumatology programs in West Africa, and through this work has shown that APOL1 variant carriers with SLE experience hypertension, advanced kidney disease, and tissue injury. By studying the interplay between chronic inflammation, cellular function, and APOL1 gene expression, Dr. Blazer aims to provide personalized treatment options to the most vulnerable of patients.

Clinical Specialty Details

Dr. Blazer is a board certified rheumatologist and is adept at treating all rheumatic diseases. She has a special interest in treating Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. 

Awards and Affiliations

Recent Awards

African Americans in Medicine, Commitment to Black patients, Harlem Fine Arts Show

Change Maker Recognition, Addressing Disparities, American College of Rheumatology

Top 40 Under 40, Leadership in minority health, The National Minority Quality Forum

Rising Star, Research award and lectureship, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Appreciation Award, Fellow and faculty development, Nigerian Society for Rheumatology

National Affiliations

American College of Rheumatology

National Minority Quality Forum

Lupus Foundation of America

Lupus Research Alliance

Grants and Contracts

“ELUCIDATE-Epigenetics; Lupus Urine Cells In Decoding APOL1 Transmutation Effects" -Lupus Research Alliance Career Development Award

“SLE-AWARE: SLE—A Window into APOL1 Regulation and Expression” - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease


In the News

Professional Activity

Inaugural Co-Chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, American College of Rheumatology

Medical Science Advisory council, Lupus Foundation of America

Board Certifications

Internal Medicine 2014

Rheumatology 2015