My colleagues and I run the oral chemotherapy monitoring program for about 500 patients at the University of Minnesota Health Masonic Cancer Clinic.

I work with patients when they begin their treatment, helping them deal with side effects, and monitoring their adherence to their medications. In between their appointments, I check on their refills. Some of them need to send their prescriptions outside of Fairview Specialty Pharmacy when required and we can help with that, as well.

My job is really diverse. At any given time, I could be answering questions from 50 providers plus 15 to 20 nurses in the clinic. Two days a week, I do Medication Therapy Management (MTM) visits for patients in the cancer clinic. This program helps patients monitor their adherence to all of their many medications. If something isn’t working right, we help them devise a plan to improve things. We also offer help with many lifestyle issues that can impact a person who is undergoing treatment. For example, we are just about to start smoking cessation services for patients with cancer.         
                                                                                                                                                                           
In the beginning of my career, I was a technician at the University of Iowa hospital and I was assigned to compound and deliver medications for the oncology patients. I then did a specialized program at the University of Washington; it offered the equivalent of a 2-year residency and a 2-year PharmD degree at once. My first job was at the University of Wisconsin hospital, where I again found myself exploring the many aspects of working with the oncology population. This focus continued when I began working at Fairview.

I’m always working on making things better for the patients. Chemotherapy can be quite a scary kind of treatment. I had 1 patient who was very anxious, and I just said, “I know this is all new to you, but we do this every day. We have been giving this treatment for years.” He felt a lot better. It’s helpful for patients to know that these complex things are not unusual for us; they’re just regular business.

Sometimes, patients just need someone to listen, to confirm what they have already been told. They have already asked the doctor their questions, but sometimes it’s just too overwhelming to assimilate all of the information. To assist with this, we have developed our own patient teaching materials, containing the information that we feel is most important to pass along. There is always something you can do to reassure patients and make things easier.

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Lisa Lohr, Pharm D, BCPS, BCOP, is a Specialty Medication Therapy Management pharmacist specializing in oncology care with Fairview Specialty Pharmacy in Minneapolis. She is a member of the Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association, and has presented on managing the side effects of oral chemotherapy. 

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