Connecting the Dots: Conducting a National Pediatric Oncology Journal Club

Savannah L. Gulley, PharmD
Pediatric Stem Cell Transplant Clinical Specialist
Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital
St. Petersburg, FL
Former PGY-2 Oncology Pharmacy Resident
Norton Children’s Hospital
Louisville, KY

Currently, four American Society of Health-System Pharmacists–accredited postgraduate year-2 oncology pharmacy residencies in pediatric oncology are available. Six residency positions are offered annually among the programs at Norton Children’s Hospital, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and Seattle Children’s Hospital. Despite being linked by our work in a subspecialized profession, we span the country geographically, and the distance between programs makes networking difficult. This challenge served as the impetus for developing a national pediatric oncology journal club series coordinated by the Norton Children’s Hospital resident.

Our vision in developing the series was to provide a platform that encouraged networking while advancing participants’ knowledge related to pediatric hematology, oncology, and stem cell transplantation. Over the course of the year, we held three sessions and covered six journal articles. Topics varied according to the presenting resident’s interest and ranged from the use of sodium thiosulfate to prevent cisplatin-related ototoxicity to preparative regimens for stem cell transplant in those with neuroblastoma. After articles were reviewed by the presenting resident, an open forum followed, allowing participants to share practices and experiences from their own institution and foster learning by the preceptors, residents, and students in attendance.

Scheduling of the sessions required communication between all institutions. In order to promote face-to-face networking, we used a variety of platforms: Skype, WebEx screen sharing, and WebEx video conferencing. The communication platform proved the most challenging aspect of the sessions because we encountered some technical difficulties with each platform. Skype provided face-to-face contact, but its performance on certain computer systems was subpar, and document sharing was unavailable. WebEx screen sharing was the second platform tested, and while it allowed for all institutions to view the handouts online, it minimized face-to-face interactions. Last, we attempted to use WebEx video conferencing, and, like Skype, it was not successful for all institutions, and we experienced a great deal of auditory feedback.

After completion of the journal club series, an eight-question survey was sent to the program directors to distribute to participants in order to identify strengths and opportunities for future years. Eight individuals completed the survey and stated that they were likely or highly likely to recommend the national journal club to a friend or colleague. All participants rated the national journal club as good, very good, or excellent and thought it had the right number of sessions per year. What individuals reported liking most about the journal club series was the opportunity for networking and idea sharing between institutions. The area identified as needing most improvement was technology optimization. Preferences for the platform varied, and suggestions of other options to explore included Zoom and conference calling.

Because of the positive feedback received, we hope to continue the sessions in future years. We hope to find solutions to the technological challenges by exploring other platforms. Overall, the sessions allowed for enhanced interaction among residents, preceptors, and program directors, which we hope will lead to lifelong professional and personal partnerships.