Megan Brafford May, PharmD BCOP
Clinical Oncology Pharmacy Specialist
Baptist Health Lexington
Brandi Anders, PharmD BCOP
Hematology/Oncology Clinical Pharmacy Specialist
Wake Forest Baptist Health
In 2016–2017 HOPA invited members to submit proposals for a “Big Idea” regarding new initiatives that HOPA could undertake to fulfill the goals and objectives related to the 2016–2020 strategic plan. The winning idea selected by the membership this year for implementation was submitted by Michael Vozniak. His “Big Idea” was to establish a hematology/oncology pharmacy competency and certificate program.
Mike is the associate director of pharmacy for professional practice and the PGY-1 residency program director at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) in Philadelphia, PA. Mike initially worked as an oncology clinical pharmacy specialist for almost 10 years at HUP. He helped care for patients with a wide variety of malignancies—from gynecologic to hematologic and allogeneic stem cell transplant patients. In his current role he focuses on providing high-quality pharmacy services and meaningful pharmacist-patient engagement to enhance patients’ knowledge and understanding of medications.
Mike shared with us more about his “Big Idea” and the impact it will have on hematology/oncology pharmacy practice.
In which type of practice setting do you currently work? Do you specialize in a specific tumor type? Briefly tell us about the type and number of patients that you currently see in your practice.
I work in a large academic medical center. Our hospital has approximately 750 beds, and we have a very large ambulatory oncology practice. My focus is on inpatient pharmacy and specifically our clinical pharmacy services and pharmacy practice model. We have more than 110 inpatient beds dedicated to oncology. Our primary inpatient focus is leukemia, lymphoma, and stem cell transplant. We perform both allogeneic and autologous stem cell transplants, including umbilical cord transplantation.
What was your “Big Idea”?
My Big Idea was to create an Oncology Pharmacy Competency and Certificate Program that HOPA could offer to pharmacists.
How did you come up with that idea?
My institution is constantly training pharmacists to work in oncology. Through my engagement in HOPA, I’ve learned from many members that their institutions also have varied needs to do this same training. The commonality is the lack of a standardized format and content for the training, as well as an assessment or competence component.
HOPA members work in a variety of practice settings and sizes. No matter what the institution’s size or setting, the sentiment I heard was that every institution had some degree of difficulty with training pharmacists to work in oncology. My idea was to have HOPA do what it does best: provide education and training to pharmacists who are new to oncology in a structured format and to award a certificate for successful completion of the program that pharmacists could show to their employers.
What value do you think your “Big Idea” will have for the HOPA membership?
I believe the competency and certificate program will give HOPA the opportunity to expand its membership base to another group of pharmacists–both pharmacists who are new to oncology and those who may work not just in oncology but in a variety of practice settings. The goal is for the curriculum to cover the fundamentals of oncology from chemotherapy admixture technique and chemotherapy and biotherapy pharmacology to adverse event management and for the participant to become more confident working in oncology.
I also believe that the competency and certificate piece is critical. This is a visible recognition of successful completion of this curriculum—something that can be shown to someone’s employer and their peers.
How will members be able to implement your “Big Idea” in their practice sites?
The oncology pharmacy staff and leadership at each practice site should internally review their needs and assess whether their staff members or they themselves could benefit from completing the program. Initially, I see the benefit of oncology pharmacy leaders taking the course so they know firsthand the benefits and value the program affords. And then, going forward, I’d like for employers to perceive the program as valuable for their staff members when they are transitioning to roles in oncology pharmacy.
Oncology pharmacists are expanding in numbers and breadth of practice. More oncology pharmacists are now running their own clinics in pain management, bone health, and other specialties. With these advancements, how do you perceive the future of oncology pharmacy? How will current trends relate to your practice, and what changes will they bring to your practice?
Oncology pharmacists have been constantly expanding to meet the complex needs of patients as our treatments evolve. Oncology pharmacists have been breaking from traditional practice settings and techniques to meet patients’ needs. Oncology pharmacy will continue to expand into the ambulatory practice setting. This area will grow more rapidly if federal provider status legislation is enacted. Pharmacy leaders need to continue to find ways to demonstrate the value of pharmacy services as we expand our services and practice areas. In addition, it will become important for pharmacists to know how to appropriately document and bill for their services.
What piece of advice would you offer to oncology pharmacists who are either just beginning their career or are expanding their role in patient care?
My advice to both groups is the same. I encourage you to set realistic and measurable goals for yourself at the outset and to be patient. Today, it seems, everyone wants instant gratification or responses. As you start your career or begin work in a new role, be patient and take time to make sure you are providing the right services at the right time and to the right patient population. Engaging in self-reflection and being honest with yourself are extremely important. Do this routinely! Finally, find a mentor either within or outside your institution (or both). Mentors are extremely important and provide much needed wisdom and feedback.