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Member Spotlight

Megan Brafford May, PharmD BCOP
Clinical Oncology Pharmacy Specialist
Baptist Health Lexington
Lexington, KY


Brandi Anders, PharmD BCOP
Hematology/Oncology Clinical Pharmacy Specialist
Wake Forest Baptist Health
Winston-Salem, NC

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.

Robert Mancini, PharmD BCOP
Bone Marrow Transplant Pharmacy Program Coordinator
PGY-2 Oncology Residency Program Director
St. Luke’s Mountain States Tumor Institute
Clinical Adjunct Faculty–Oncology
Idaho State University, College of Pharmacy
Boise/Meridian, ID

Robert “Bob” Ignoffo, PharmD FASHP FCSHP, received HOPA’s 2013 Award of Excellence. This award, first given in 2005, recognizes a HOPA member who has made a significant, sustained contribution to hematology/oncology pharmacy or has provided excellent leadership in improving or supporting the field. Recipients of the award are recognized at HOPA’s annual conference with a platform presentation on their contributions, and they receive a lifetime HOPA membership. Bob is currently professor of pharmacy and assistant dean of student services at Touro University and Clinical Professor Emeritus at the University of California–San Francisco.

In an October 2017 interview, he spoke about his involvement in HOPA and reflected on his career in oncology pharmacy.

What first drew you to HOPA, and how long have you been a member?

A few oncology pharmacy colleagues of mine, Phil Johnson and Jim Koeller, were developing bylaws for HOPA, arising from our efforts with Oncology New Concepts and on behalf of the Oncology Pharmacy Specialty through the Board of Pharmacy Specialists. They asked me to become a founding member of HOPA, and I gladly accepted. As one of HOPA’s 29 founding members, I have been with the organization since its inception in 2004. [More about the founding of HOPA is available at hoparx.org/about/history-of-hopa.].

How have you been involved in HOPA over the years?

I have been heavily involved with HOPA since the beginning days. I was a founding board member during the development of HOPA from 2002 to 2004 and then served as an official board member in 2004–2006.  Since then, I have served on numerous committees and task forces, often as chair or vice-chair: on the Publications Committee (vice-chair, 2007–2008, chair, 2008–2009), the Medscape Task Force (2010–2011), Recognition Committee (2015–2016), Task Force on the Value of the Oncology Pharmacist (chair, 2016–2017), and Practice Outcomes and Professional Benchmarking Committee (chair, 2017–2018). I have attended numerous HOPA meetings and given presentations at several.

What have you done to improve oncology pharmacy care at your places of employment?

Perhaps one of the biggest practice changes I have worked on was developing a collaborative practice protocol with physicians at the University of California Cancer Research Center. I have also worked on numerous practice improvement projects, including developing a methotrexate monitoring program, and performed research on managing chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Most recently, I worked on and published a Delphi Study on the shortfalls in oncology patient visits and the potential impact Board Certified Oncology Pharmacists (BCOPs) can make in reducing that shortfall.1

What did winning the HOPA Award of Excellence mean to you?

It’s hard to express what winning an award of this significance meant. Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is how gratifying it was to be acknowledged by my peers for my expertise in oncology pharmacy practice.

How has receiving this award affected your career development or career path?

It has certainly led to many students and residents coming to me for advice on how to become an oncology pharmacist and how to pursue their own career paths. I’d say that it gave me the opportunity to assume more of a mentoring role than I might have had otherwise.

What career or personal advice do you have for established or new oncology pharmacists?

My advice for success both in life and in work is to be gritty and resolute. Persevere in your endeavors, and be unwavering in efforts to achieve your goals—most of them can be achieved. Be true to yourself. Find a mentor or team of collaborators to help you, whether you are working on developing a program, doing research, or improving your skills. Be grateful for their help. There will be ups and downs in career and life; accept them knowingly, let the dust settle, and get back to work. But remember that it’s important to leave time for family and fun.

If you could describe oncology pharmacists in one sentence, what would you say?

Oncology pharmacists are professionals who are dedicated to improving outcomes related to cancer treatment in patients with cancer.

Reference
1. Ignoffo R, Knapp K, Barnett M. et al. Board-certified oncology pharmacists: their potential contribution to reducing a shortfall in oncology patient visits. J Oncol Pract. 2016;12(4):e359-368). doi: 10.1200/JOP.2015.008490. Epub 2016 Mar 22

Robert Mancini, PharmD BCOP
Bone Marrow Transplant Pharmacy Program Coordinator
PGY-2 Oncology Residency Program Director
St. Luke’s Mountain States Tumor Institute
Clinical Adjunct Faculty–Oncology
Idaho State University, College of Pharmacy
Boise/Meridian, ID

Rowena “Moe” Schwartz, PharmD BCOP, was the winner of the 2014 HOPA Award of Excellence. This award, first given in 2005, recognizes a member who has made a significant and sustained contribution to improving or supporting hematology/oncology pharmacy or has given excellent leadership in that area. The award winners receive a lifetime membership in HOPA and are recognized at an awards ceremony at HOPA’s annual conference and given a platform presentation regarding their contributions. Moe serves as an associate professor of pharmacy practice with a focus in hematology/oncology at the University of Cincinnati College of Pharmacy. She also works with UC Health and aids participation in phase 1 clinical trials.

In a December 2017 interview, she spoke about her career and what this award has meant to her.

What first drew you to HOPA, and how long have you been a member?

I was fortunate to be at the 2004 Making a Difference in Oncology (MAD-ONC) meeting when the idea of an oncology pharmacy organization was presented to the participants by a group of oncology pharmacy leaders. As I listened to the pitch, I recognized an opportunity to be part of an organized group that could provide a foundation for pharmacists working in hematology and oncology.

I am proud to have signed on to the concept at that meeting through a donation that makes me a “founding” member. I was also asked to participate in a work group following the MAD-ONC meeting that helped to develop the concept of HOPA, and I have been an active HOPA member ever since its founding.

How have you been involved in HOPA over the years?

I joined HOPA because I value the collaboration of oncology pharmacists. I have served on a number of committees since the organization began, and I have enjoyed working with other dedicated HOPA members to carry out the work of the organization.

I didn’t think about running for the board of directors when HOPA began—I had not held a leadership role in any other organization. I wanted to learn how to work in an organization. I was able to learn more about organizational leadership through HOPA and subsequently served on the board and as president. My experience with HOPA helped provide a broad understanding of organizations, and when I ran for president of the International Society of Oncology Pharmacy Practitioners (ISOPP), it was because of what I had learned during my time on the HOPA board.

Once you have been on a board, it can be difficult to watch others lead the organization, but new leadership is so important if an organization is to evolve. New leadership is crucial to HOPA’s continued growth.

What have you done to improve oncology pharmacy care at your places of employment that may have contributed to your winning this award?

I became an oncology pharmacist at the University of Pittsburgh early in my career. I was fortunate to have the support of a dean and my department chair at the University of Pittsburgh and the clinical leadership of University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) to develop pharmacy services for the newly formed institute. The services were developed in collaboration with a group of oncology pharmacists who took a big leap in starting oncology pharmacy services in inpatient, outpatient, and investigational drug services. Right place, right time, right team—and the energy to change the status quo.

What did winning this Award mean to you?

One of the best parts of winning this award was taking time to think about the people I have met during my career. So many people have touched my life and helped me learn how to be a better oncology pharmacist, but I realize that I haven’t always expressed my thanks. I wanted to publicly say “thank you” to those people, even if they weren’t present. This award gave me that opportunity.

How has receiving this award influenced your career development or career path?

It helped me realize how important it is to thank people at every opportunity. My successes were almost always shared successes. As oncology pharmacists, we see, far too often, that life can change in a moment. It is so important to show people that you appreciate them, in the moment.

What career or personal advice do you have for established or new oncology pharmacists?

As I age, I find I have more advice than people want to hear, so I am going to try to hit just a few key points.

  • Lead with your strengths. I realize that this is not an original thought, but when I finally understood this concept during a leadership program, I realized the power of going forward with your strengths and partnering with people who have skills and strengths that you don’t have.
  • Mentors are not assigned. I value the people who have helped me throughout my career, and they were often people with very different world views.
  • Expressing your ideas is important, but learning when not to express those ideas is even more important. (I still work on this, obviously.)

If you could describe oncology pharmacists in one sentence, what would you say?

An oncology pharmacist is an individual who contributes to optimal cancer care through the application of individualized drug therapy.
(That was really hard!)

Robert Mancini, PharmD BCOP
Bone Marrow Transplant Pharmacy Program Coordinator
PGY-2 Oncology Residency Program Director
St. Luke’s Mountain States Tumor Institute
Clinical Adjunct Faculty–Oncology
Idaho State University, College of Pharmacy
Boise/Meridian, ID

David “Dave” W. Henry, MS BCOP FASHP, was the winner of the 2015 HOPA Award of Excellence. This award, first given in 2005, recognizes a member who has made a significant and sustained contribution to improving or supporting hematology/oncology pharmacy or has given excellent leadership in that area. The award winners receive a lifetime membership in HOPA and are recognized at an awards ceremony at HOPA’s annual conference and given a platform presentation regarding their contributions. Dave is chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice and associate professor at the University of Kansas School of Pharmacy.
In a January 2018 interview, he spoke about his career and what this award has meant to him.

What first drew you to HOPA, and how long have you been a member?

I joined HOPA a few months after its formation. Many of the founding members were oncology pharmacists whom I knew from attending previous national meetings. About this time it seemed to me that other organizations had fewer oncology programs at their national meetings, so having an organization, meetings, and opportunities for networking that were connected purely to oncology appealed to me at the time and still does.

How have you been involved in HOPA over the years?

In the early years of HOPA my involvement did not go beyond attending all the annual meetings and presenting at a few of them. From 2006 to 2011, I served on the Board of Pharmacy Specialists (BPS) Oncology Specialty Council, and I intentionally did not get too involved in HOPA because it was suggested to me that being heavily involved in HOPA or the American College of Clinical Pharmacy might represent a conflict of interest. (The BPS Oncology Specialty Council approves board certified oncology pharmacist [BCOP] continuing education and also oversees the BCOP examination.) In more recent years I have participated on HOPA’s committees working in the areas of nominations, awards, and leadership development.

What have you done to improve oncology pharmacy care at your places of employment that may have contributed to your winning this award?

I am a faculty member of the University of Kansas School of Pharmacy, although I practice at the University of Kansas Health System. I can’t honestly say that I have directly improved care processes much, but I was the only experienced pediatric oncology pharmacist for about 30 years. I go on rounds with the team most of the time and try to follow patients in the electronic medical records close to 365 days per year and help in any way I can. I have helped in the training of our PGY-2 oncology residents every year, and I participate in most of their research projects, many of which I believe have affected oncology practice at our institution.
I served as chair of the Pharmacy Committee of the Pediatric Oncology Group from 1991 to 2000 and then was active in the Pharmacy Committee of the Children’s Oncology Group until 2010. I also served on the BPS Oncology Specialty Council for 6 years. I have coauthored the pediatric malignancies material in Applied Therapeutics for the last six editions and published a fair amount. I suspect that these activities played a large part in my receiving the award.

What did winning this award mean to you?

I have received other awards, but receiving this award from my oncology pharmacy colleagues at HOPA was the thrill of a lifetime. I was also lucky to have a number of past residents, current University of Kansas colleagues, and my pediatric oncology colleagues there at the conference; some of them arranged a group dinner for that evening that magnified the fun of the event.

What career or personal advice do you have for established or new oncology pharmacists?

My best advice is to always give your best effort and be reliable—people will notice. You also need to have patience because expertise and most forms of success usually come only with time. Last, do what you love doing, not what pays the most.

How would you describe oncology pharmacists in one word or one sentence?

I could describe them with one word: colleagues. The fact that so many oncology pharmacists are selfless patient advocates is what impresses me the most about my colleagues and makes me proud to be one.

Robert Mancini, PharmD BCOP
Bone Marrow Transplant Pharmacy Program Coordinator
PGY-2 Oncology Residency Program Director
St. Luke’s Mountain States Tumor Institute
Clinical Adjunct Faculty–Oncology
Idaho State University, College of Pharmacy
Boise/Meridian, ID

Niesha Griffith, RPh MS FASHP, was the winner of the 2016 HOPA Award of Excellence. This award, first given in 2005, recognizes a member who has made a significant and sustained contribution to improving or supporting hematology/oncology pharmacy or has given excellent leadership in that area. The award winners receive a lifetime membership in HOPA and are recognized at an awards ceremony at HOPA’s annual conference and given a platform presentation regarding their contributions. Niesha serves as an oncology services consultant for health care and industry and as an advising partner and consultant for McGivney Global Advisors. She has previously served as vice-president of cancer services for West Virginia University Medicine, administrator for oncology pharmacy and infusion services at the James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State University (OSU), and director of the health-system pharmacy administration residency program at the OSU Medical Center.

In a June 2018 interview, she spoke about her career and what receiving this award has meant to her.

What first drew you to HOPA, and how long have you been a member?
I have been a member of HOPA since the very beginning of the organization. I remember first hearing about this new organization and was excited to learn that it was dedicated solely to advancing oncology pharmacy practice. HOPA began around the time that I was in the process of building our clinical practice model at the James Cancer Hospital at OSU. I had recently visited MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and was impressed with the clinical specialist model and clinical services there. I knew that the pharmacy program at our hospital would need to become similar to meet the needs of the growing cancer program at Ohio State. With HOPA beginning about the same time that our own practice model design was under way, I felt that it would be good for the pharmacists to become members and take advantage of HOPA’s educational and networking opportunities. I sought approval from our CEO to pay for the memberships for all the pharmacists in that inaugural year.

How have you been involved in HOPA over the years?
I started my involvement in HOPA with membership on the legislative/health policy committee. Tim Tyler and Phil Johnson were both on the committee then, and I was fortunate to have their mentorship. Tim surprised me one day by letting me know that I would be vice chair and then, the following year, the chair.

In 2010, I became a member-at-large on the HOPA Board of Directors. In 2012, while on the board, I worked with Julie Ichiba, HOPA’s director of professional relations, to create the Industry Relations Task Force (now the Industry Relations Committee). Together we have worked to nurture and expand this committee into what it is today, providing HOPA the opportunity to work with and learn from members of the pharmaceutical industry. These relationships have brought great value and insight to our organization.

In 2012, I was elected HOPA president-elect and then served as president in 2013–2014. One of my primary goals was to create and launch a meeting focused solely on the unique oncology pharmacy practice management issues that face oncology leaders. With all the challenges that oncology pharmacy leaders face, our profession was lacking a meeting to help prepare future leaders and provide networking and information-sharing opportunities for those already in leadership positons. The meeting was successfully launched in the fall of 2013 and is now an annual offering that continues to grow in attendance and relevance. This year, the HOPA board honored my contribution by establishing the Niesha L. Griffith Keynote Lecture, to be given by an invited guest each year at the introduction of each Oncology Pharmacy Practice Management program.

What have you done to improve oncology pharmacy care at your places of employment that may have contributed to your winning this award?
I believe there are two key accomplishments that my colleagues felt qualified me as a candidate for this award—one being practice directed and one being patient care directed. First, I was involved in launching the disease-specific oncology clinical specialist model for both inpatients and outpatients at the James Cancer Hospital, one of just a handful of similar models in the country that put clinical specialists in the outpatient setting. Second, I started our medication assistance program to assist patients who could not otherwise afford their infused or oral chemotherapy and supportive care medications. We were one of the few organizations at the time to launch a robust program, first at James and then across the entire OSU system, that offered copay assistance or free medication for oral medications, copay assistance or free (replacement) medications for infused meds, and off-label support.

What did winning this award mean to you?
First and foremost, it was very humbling. Considering those who are past and current recipients, I count it an honor to become part of this group of outstanding individuals. I am extremely appreciative of the time and effort of Susannah Koontz, Sarah Hudson-DiSalle, and my co-workers and colleagues who provided the information needed for the award nomination. What meant the most to me in receiving this award was knowing that these individuals believed I was worthy and provided letters of support. As all of us in the pharmacy profession can attest, we put our patients and our profession first. I have worked hard my entire career to make a difference in the lives of my patients, co-workers, staff, and colleagues.

How has receiving this award influenced your career development or career path?
I think the biggest impact has been the way it helps me in my work today as a consultant. If someone had told me at the beginning of my career that in 25 years I would become a consultant, I never would have believed them. But with the growth of the cancer patient population, the expansion and mergers and affiliations of cancer programs across the country, the innovation and personalization of cancer care, and, frankly, the cost of cancer care, many organizations are seeking the help of outside experts. I am excited about the opportunity to assist individuals and programs in meeting their goals and providing a safe, high-quality, exemplary patient experience. This award highlights and recognizes the work I have done throughout my career to do just that, which certainly is a benefit.

What career or personal advice do you have for new or established oncology pharmacists?
I would say, “Do what makes you happy.” You can’t do something well if you don’t love what you do and are not passionate about it. If you wake up and dread going to work, it’s time to make a change. There are plenty of opportunities to diversify in our profession and go outside the traditional patient care and leadership roles—in the areas of research, teaching, industry, advocacy, and consulting, to name a few.

For most of my career I have told my residents, “Do what I say, not what I do” because I felt as though I did not have a good work-life balance. A wise friend once told me, “Your job will never love you as much as you love it.” Oh, how right she was! Organizations change as leaders change, and despite how much you have accomplished or how hard you have worked, your personal sacrifices are not as important to them as they are to you. Learn to balance the needs of your patients and organizations without sacrificing your own health and quality time with others. If you can’t find that balance, then it’s time to step back and consider what’s really important to you. There is a reason that so many HOPA members are making significant career changes today and leaving traditional healthcare roles. Though I applaud their decisions, I see this trend as a sad commentary on the state of health care today. Make work-life balance a priority in your life. You will never look back on your life and wish you had spent more time at work.

If you could describe oncology pharmacists in one sentence, what would you say?
Oncology pharmacists are dedicated, compassionate individuals who have committed their lives to working to improve the safety and quality of patients’ experience on their cancer care treatment journey.

R. Donald Harvey

R. Donald Harvey, PharmD BCOP FCCP FHOPA, was the winner of the 2018 HOPA Award of Excellence. This award, first given in 2005, recognizes a member who has made a significant and sustained contribution to improving or supporting hematology/oncology pharmacy or has given excellent leadership in that area. The award winners receive a lifetime membership in HOPA and are recognized at an awards ceremony at HOPA’s annual conference and given a platform presentation regarding their contributions. Dr. Harvey is an associate professor of hematology/medical oncology and pharmacology at Emory University School of Medicine. The developer of the Phase I Program at Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute, he currently directs the Clinical Trials Section of that program.

During his first position at the University of North Carolina, Dr. Harvey developed one of the first anticoagulation services for hematology/oncology patients. He is a national and international speaker and served as the president of HOPA from 2010 to 2013. He has led several HOPA initiatives, served on a number of committees, and been a strong advocate for hematology/oncology pharmacists in research.

In a November 2018 interview, he spoke about his career and what the HOPA Award of Excellence has meant to him. 

Please describe your clinical practice setting and your research program.
I serve as the director of the Phase I Clinical Trials Section and Unit at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. The director’s office adjoins the unit, and I see patients enrolled in clinical trials on a daily basis. Our center enrolls approximately 250 patients in early-phase protocols annually, and, in conjunction with superb advanced practice providers and physician colleagues, we take care of them during all parts of their cancer treatment and supportive care while on trial. My research program is focused on the use of clinical pharmacology concepts and tools to improve treatment across all cancer types and phases of drug development. Some examples have been our collaborations on abiraterone dosing with food to improve pharmacokinetics and reduce costs, an ongoing intranasal ketamine bioavailability trial in opioid-refractory cancer pain, and predictive biomarkers of response to novel immunotherapeutics. I oversee a research team of 11 members, and we are moving to a new phase I unit space in January 2019, tripling in size and adding patient views of downtown Atlanta. It’s been an incredibly humbling and exciting time since I joined the Emory staff in 2007.

How long have you been a member of HOPA, and how have you been involved?
I joined HOPA in late 2004, began on the Education and Standards Committee, and have served as a member or chair of six committees or task forces, with a focus on research activities. I served on the board of directors as president from 2010 to 2013 and am on the Recognition Committee this year. I have been fortunate to speak regularly at the annual conference and to serve as an abstract reviewer and poster award judge. HOPA is and always will be my primary organizational home, and I will work to help make it the best organization for oncology pharmacists to call their own.

What would you define as keys to your success?
I try to look at all situations and people with an open mind and to surround myself with colleagues who are smarter than I am, to ensure that I am a lifelong learner. My professional goals are always patient focused, and I am driven by curiosity and a willingness to fail. I have a very supportive family, which also keeps me grounded. And there’s coffee.

Who was your mentor, and how did that person influence your career path?
Celeste Lindley was the first person who opened my eyes to the world of hematology/oncology pharmacy and where it could take me. She was a tireless mentor who taught me critical thinking skills. She also taught me that depth is more important than breadth and that we have to be the drug experts in the room of oncology. I learned a lack of boundaries from Dr. Lindley and since then have perpetually refused to stay in my professional lane.

What does winning the HOPA Award of Excellence mean to you personally?
The award is a pure reflection of the people around me who have influenced me, knowingly or unknowingly. I share the award with many of the giants of hematology/oncology pharmacy, and I am proud and humbled to be in their company.

What is one of the proudest moments of your career?
My proudest moments have come when someone I mentor has a “wow” moment. It may be understanding a new concept, getting an abstract or paper accepted, deciding on a research hypothesis, or selecting a career path. The ability to help others learn and grow has always been a top priority for me, partly because of the power of these moments.

Oncology pharmacists can have a profound influence on their patients and trainees. What would you like your patients, trainees, and colleagues to know about you?
I would like everyone to know these three things: (1) We have to continually place patients at the center of all that we do, and I have attempted to base my entire career on this concept; (2) I never thought I would be doing what I’m doing—any career path is likely to be circuitous rather than direct; and (3) I firmly believe in and live by a work-hard, play-hard philosophy—cancer has taught me to be the best father, husband, friend, clinician-researcher, and teacher today, not tomorrow. Work-life balance doesn’t mean you work less. It means you give your all every day to the things that matter most.

What advice would you offer to other oncology pharmacists who are either just beginning their career or expanding their role in patient care?
I would say this: Don’t be afraid of hard work, of being uncomfortable, or of being wrong. Growth happens only in these three areas. If you find yourself overly comfortable, boredom, followed by dissatisfaction, is likely to ensue.

Interviewers
Lisa Cordes, PharmD BCOP BCACP
Oncology Clinical Pharmacy Specialist and Educator
National Cancer Institute
Bethesda, MD

Kasey Jackson, PharmD BCOP
Clinical Pharmacist Specialist, Hematology/Oncology
Medical University of South Carolina Hollings Cancer Center
Charleston, SC

Alexandra Shillingburg

Alex Shillingburg, PharmD BCOP, was the winner of HOPA’s 2018 New Practitioner Award, which recognizes an early-career HOPA member who has made a significant contribution to developing or supporting clinical hematology/oncology pharmacy services. Dr. Shillingburg is a clinical pharmacy coordinator at Levine Cancer Institute, Atrium Health, Charlotte, NC, where she specializes in malignant hematology and hematopoietic stem cell transplant in both inpatient and outpatient settings.

Early in her career, Dr. Shillingburg developed the role of a clinical pharmacist in the malignant hematology and stem cell transplant outpatient clinics at West Virginia University (WVU). Because of her innovative perspective and leadership skills, she quickly was asked to assume the post of director of the stem-cell collection and apheresis program. Dr. Shillingburg has continued to advance pharmacy practice at her new position with Atrium Health. She has identified several opportunities for patient care improvement and optimization. She is also highly dedicated to teaching and mentoring students and residents in the field of oncology and has recently become the PGY-2 Oncology Pharmacy Program Director at Atrium Health. She has served on a number of HOPA committees and has also spoken at HOPA’s annual conferences in the last several years. In November 2018, we asked Dr. Shillingburg to share some thoughts on her career and what winning the New Practitioner Award has meant to her.

In what practice setting do you work? Do you specialize in a specific tumor type? Briefly tell us about the type and number of patients that you see in your practice.
I currently practice at the Levine Cancer Institute (LCI) and Carolinas Medical Center (CMC), both part of the Atrium Health hospital network. CMC is a large public nonprofit hospital licensed for 874 beds, with a dedicated oncology unit and stem cell transplant unit, together comprising 52 beds. The Levine Cancer Institute is a comprehensive cancer care center with 25 regional facilities. The main building, where the majority of the 200 oncologists practice, consists of 68 infusion chairs (the number will increase to more than 100 in spring 2019) and offers numerous clinic and supportive services.

I specialize in malignant hematology and stem cell transplantation, along with five other pharmacists in my group. The six of us rotate monthly between the outpatient clinics (leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, and posttransplant) and the two inpatient service teams. Because we are a tertiary referral center, many patients with rare and highly refractory diseases are referred to us, and because we are the only stem cell transplant facility within a 75-mile radius, most patients with leukemia are referred to our care. On average, each of us cares for 20–30 patients daily.

How long have you been a member of HOPA, and how have you been involved during that time?
I became a member of HOPA as a PGY-1 resident in 2012 when I was planning to apply for PGY-2 residencies in oncology and wanted to become more involved in the leading oncology pharmacist organization. After joining, I was immediately incorporated into the Publications Committee and served as a member for 2 years. During that time, I authored several articles for HOPA News. I also proposed initiating “The Resident’s Cubicle” column, which would focus on issues relating to residents and residency programs. I wrote the three inaugural columns and have been thrilled to see its continued inclusion in HOPA News.

In 2014, I spoke at both HOPA’s Practice Management meeting and the Annual Conference on topics related to my experience at the WVU Cancer Institute when the institute was seeking Quality Oncology Practice Initiative (QOPI) certification from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

In 2015, I sat on the BCOP Updates Course Committee for one term and worked with the group to develop the topics, review the content, and organize the review course program.

Early in 2018, I had the opportunity to join the Leadership Development Committee. I am really enjoying being involved with the numerous initiatives that group has planned, including launching the Mentorship Pilot Program and focusing on issues related to women in pharmacy leadership.

What have you done to improve oncology pharmacy care at your places of employment that may have contributed to your winning this award?
In my first position as a clinical specialist at WVU, I instituted and developed the outpatient clinical pharmacist’s role in the malignant hematology and stem cell transplant clinics. I instituted a pharmacist-run tacrolimus monitoring program for all patients after allogeneic transplant, revised the posttransplant immunization process, and implemented processes for monitoring many posttransplant complications. I was also asked to direct the stem-cell collection program and work with the nursing, physician, and stem-cell processing technicians to coordinate care of our healthy donor collections, autologous collections, and extracorporeal photopheresis patients.

I was also involved in many quality improvement initiatives and worked with cancer center leaders to maintain American College of Surgeons/Commission on Cancer and Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT) accreditations. When the center was planning to apply for QOPI certification by ASCO in 2014, I was asked by the section chief of oncology to oversee the process. Over the course of a year, I coordinated this massive effort to update and submit the required policies, collate data from chart abstractions, and validate data collection processes; I then oversaw the onsite visits, after which we received our accreditation and an excellent review.

Since transitioning into my role at LCI, I have worked with our group to develop several new chemotherapy order sets, implement criteria for the use of glucarpidase, optimize the administration of high-dose etoposide, and revise the posttransplant immunization standards.

What would you identify as keys to your success so far in your career?
I think the major key to the success I have had so far is that I don’t set limits on where I can be involved. If I have the knowledge and ability to contribute to something and improve the care that we provide, I want to do that. Many of the roles I have taken on have been tasks that are not traditionally considered “pharmacy roles.” I often get surprised looks when I talk about my involvement with the stem-cell collection team or the QOPI certification team because it’s not typical for a pharmacist to fill those roles. I took the time to understand the needs and abilities of each group, I understand the clinical processes, and the rest is just good communication, desire, and effort. Instead of assuming it’s not something we can do, I ask, “Why not?” Be a peer reviewer for a journal as a resident? Why not? Mentor student research projects as a resident? Why not? Teach nursing classes on stem-cell processing? Why not?

What are your areas of interest pertaining to research and education?
My clinical areas of interest are chronic leukemias, growth-factor support, posttransplant complications, and posttransplant immune reconstitution.

My greater passion is the education and development of pharmacy residents. I have always loved being closely involved with residency training, providing professional and personal mentorship and guidance, and helping the residents progress to reach their full potential. Since moving to LCI, I have been extensively involved with both the PGY-1 program and the PGY-2 oncology residency, and I assumed the role of residency program director for the PGY-2 oncology program in July 2018. I have really enjoyed devoting time to improving the program and, most important, to developing my first official resident. I also have kept in touch over the years with several former residents whom I precepted or mentored. Seeing their successes as clinicians, as pharmacy advocates, as organization leaders, and as people is truly my greatest motivator.

What does winning the New Practitioner Award mean to you personally?
Receiving this award was a true honor, and I was incredibly thankful to have been selected from what I can only imagine was a pool of remarkable pharmacists. It feels very gratifying to know that others have recognized and appreciate the effort I have invested into my role as an oncology care team member. As I move forward in my career, I hope to continue to be a role model in the pharmacy profession and practice at a level deserving of this recognition. Being selected by a group of peers for whom I have so much respect and admiration has also given me the desire to inspire other early-career pharmacists to excel and be actively involved in collaborative efforts to improve the care of our cancer patients.

What advice would you offer to other oncology pharmacists who are either just beginning their career or expanding their role in patient care?
My advice is to find something that motivates you, something that drives you to be more involved, something that interests and excites you. Whatever that is, you will need it to inspire you as you wade through the mundane, tedious, and politically sensitive tasks that are part of every job. Don’t let the fact that something may not be a typical role for a pharmacist stop you from jumping in and making a difference. And last, find something outside of your job that grounds you and gives you purpose beyond being a pharmacist. These friendships, hobbies, relationships, sports, charities, churches, and families—or whatever your release may be—allow you to appreciate complexity and gain perspective in life. These things make you a more well-rounded and satisfied person. These things will keep you from burning out and allow you to return to your very important job of improving the lives of our patients with cancer. Treating cancer every day tends either to make us blasé about very serious matters or to be a serious emotional drain. It is crucial to find a respite outside of work in order to stay focused and engaged while at work.

Interviewers
Lisa Cordes, PharmD BCOP BCACP
Oncology Clinical Pharmacy Specialist and Educator
National Cancer Institute
Bethesda, MD

Kasey Jackson, PharmD BCOP
Clinical Pharmacist Specialist, Hematology/Oncology
Medical University of South Carolina Hollings Cancer Center
Charleston, SC

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