Residency programs in specialty pharmacy are relatively new, emerging in response to dramatic growth in the specialty sector.1 Education in the classroom has also lagged behind the demand for specialty pharmacy expertise. These gaps in pharmacy curriculum have been discussed at industry meetings, including Asembia and other forums.2

Among the organizations recognizing the need for exposure to specialty pharmacy is the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), whose Section of Specialty Pharmacy Practitioners—Section Advisory Group on Workforce Development has developed extensive guidance for an elective rotation in health system specialty pharmacy, touching on pharmacy operations and a range of disease states.

Outside the health system setting, but closely connected with it, ExceleraRx Corp of Minneapolis, Minnesota, offers a 2- or 4-week rotation designed for pharmacists in residency programs affiliated with members of the Excelera nationwide network of health systems.

During 2020–2021, the rotation is a virtual opportunity, consisting of 4 interactive sessions and a residency showcase, available to all clinical or administrative pharmacy residents within the Excelera network.

Excelera’s mission is to provide pharmacy programs, products, and solutions that strive to transform the way health systems deliver care to complex patients. The rotation exposes residents to various teams within the organization and how they work with health systems, manufacturers, payers, and other key external stakeholders to advance the practice of health system specialty pharmacy.

“The experience they get at Excelera will give these residents insights into various partnerships within the specialty pharmacy field and allow them to broaden their scope of potential career options,” said Lana Gerzenshtein, manager of Network Clinical Programs at ExceleraRx Corp.

During the rotation, which launched in 2018, residents shadow Excelera team members from all disciplines, including finance, general counsel, marketing, and operations to gain visibility into what a specialty pharmacy career path can look like outside the clinical setting. Residents learn how Excelera and health systems:
 
  • Actively collaborate with one another through committees, listservs, and user groups.
  • Promote best practices and takeaways through member-led webinars.
  • Develop and manage limited distribution drug contracts.
  • Optimize pharmacy operations and aid in the growth of Excelera members.
  • Use Excelera’s best-in-class data platform to provide business insights into the patient journey for members and manufacturers.

Residents also have the opportunity (during in-person rotations) to observe the operations of Minneapolis-based Fairview Specialty Pharmacy, one of the nation’s largest health system specialty pharmacies and a model for other health systems. The rotation can also include activities focused on home infusion, the payer/pharmacy benefit manager dynamic or pharma contracting, illustrating Excelera’s flexibility in tailoring the experience to the type of information the resident is striving to learn, while at the same time meeting their defined residency goals for elective rotations.

“We are excited to work with Excelera Network members and their residents to assist in the growth and development of specialty pharmacy resident rotations,” Gerzenshtein said.

The Excelera program’s first participant, Johnny Chang, a clinical specialty pharmacist at Novant Health Specialty Pharmacy, became interested in rare disease states, biologics, and the business aspects of specialty pharmacy after interning at a commercial specialty pharmacy during his second year of pharmacy school. He notes that many pharmacy students take few or no classes focused on specialty medications, leaving gaps in education that should be addressed, given how prevalent specialty medications have become.

Of the Excelera rotation, Chang said it differed from other experiences he had during his residency in that it made him realize that “collaboration can be broader than just within a health system.”

It allowed him to “approach challenges with a different take. It makes me look at the bigger picture and approach challenges differently.”

For his required project, Chang created a presentation on health system networks and integrated pharmacy care programs to share with his team at Novant. As the first participant in Excelera’s program, Chang also had the opportunity help build the program’s syllabus.

Novant’s PGY1 Specialty Pharmacy Residency Program Director, Jessica B. McDuffie, said, “I have been so pleased with our partnership with Excelera and the support given to the program. They have provided our residents with rare opportunities both in person and virtually to engage, network and ultimately broaden their specialty pharmacy knowledge.”

Updates on the Excelera virtual rotation and the eventual return to in-person activities will be posted on excelerarx.com. For more information about the Excelera rotation, contact info@excelerarx.com

References
  1. Goninen M and Motz J. The Case for Establishing a Residency Program in Specialty Pharmacy. Pharmacy Times. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/career/2018/CareersWinter2018/the-case-for-establishing-a-residency-program-in-specialty-pharmacy. Published March 1, 2018. Accessed March 11, 2020.
  2. Santye L. The Growing Need for Specialty Curriculum in Pharmacy Schools. Pharmacy Times. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/specialty-pharmacy-times/2017/asembia-2017/The-Growing-Need-for-Specialty-Curriculum-in-Pharmacy-Schools. Published June 21, 2017. Accessed October 26, 2020.