Perspectives from Involvement in International Oncology Pharmacy
Evelyn Handel, PharmD BCOP BCPS
Director, Drugs and Biologics Programs
National Comprehensive Cancer Network
Plymouth Meeting, PA
Much of the career advice I have read or received over the years has centered on concepts like discovering what you are passionate about and being intentional about setting meaningful goals. Throughout my pharmacy career, one of my goals has been to seek out unique opportunities beyond the traditional clinical setting. Because I am also an avid traveler, I developed a curiosity about how pharmacy is practiced around the world and would often stop at pharmacies or pharmacy museums in other countries if I had the chance. This curiosity also led me to Google international oncology pharmacy practice, which is when I came across the International Society of Oncology Pharmacy Practitioners (ISOPP). ISOPP’s mission—to advance oncology pharmacy care for patients around the world—struck me as something I wanted to be a part of. The ISOPP membership consists of oncology pharmacists in a wide variety of settings all over the globe; it’s a small but close-knit and amazing community. After reading through the materials on the website, I joined the organization that same day and immediately e-mailed to ask how I could become more involved. Since then, I have been able to contribute to the work of multiple committees (including the scientific program committee for the annual symposium, the communications work group, the standards review task force, and the advocacy task force), and I am currently completing a 4-year term on the board of directors.
As with many volunteer experiences, it is amazing how giving can ultimately lead to receiving. The time I have contributed in my work with ISOPP has resulted in so many valuable experiences, networking opportunities, and chances to broaden my perspective. For example, the annual ISOPP International Oncology Pharmacy Symposium is held in a different country every year and provides a wide variety of interesting clinical content in fundamental, clinical, and research tracks as well as exciting new travel and sightseeing opportunities. It has also provided a great way for me to meet oncology pharmacists from all over the world. I now have a network of colleagues in a large number of countries, and I’ve had the privilege of learning from them as well as returning the favor through invitations to participate in other national conferences. Although specific needs may vary by region, it is fascinating for me to talk with someone halfway around the world who is facing the same challenges I am and then work together to find a solution. For instance, a recent ISOPP initiative is creating a master-class curriculum that covers topics such as supportive care in oncology, oral chemotherapy, and safe handling. It has been wonderful to help develop the content for these programs so they can be shared with oncology pharmacists in China and Turkey and many others planned for the future. Task forces are working to help address challenging topics such as biosimilars and global standards for the role of the oncology pharmacy team.
My involvement with ISOPP also helped me realize how much I enjoy working on a big-picture level. Although I found clinical practice engaging and rewarding, my interests started to shift, and a few years ago I had the opportunity to interview for a position at the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). It felt like the perfect fit because of the organization’s existing national and expanding international reach, as well as its mission and vision. As the development of new drugs and new data continues to grow at a rapid pace, the mission of NCCN to facilitate high-quality, effective, efficient, and accessible cancer care resonates with me as being particularly relevant and meaningful. At NCCN, I work with a fantastic team of oncology pharmacists and nurses to develop the NCCN Drugs and Biologics Compendium and the Chemotherapy Order Templates, which are both derivative products of the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology. In addition, we work with many licensees to integrate NCCN compendium and template information into third-party electronic information systems such as electronic medical record clinical decision support and utilization management systems.
My current role gives me a unique perspective because clinical oncology practice at our 28 member institutions helps inform our projects, which then influences clinical oncology practice around the world. It is also exciting to see an increasing global focus with the development of new resources such as translated guidelines, resource-stratified guidelines (guidelines that take into account a country’s access to resources like medications or surgical procedures), and harmonized guidelines that are being adapted for specific regions. Working on these projects represents everything that I hope oncology pharmacy as a whole will continue to pursue: collaborating on national and international levels, achieving excellence through team-based innovation, and linking the quality of patient care and outcomes with opportunities for integration and expansion of oncology pharmaceutical care. Aligning my daily work with my personal goals and passions has been one of the most meaningful lessons I have learned so far in the area of achieving career satisfaction.