Celebrating Pharmacists: The Unique and Valuable Role of "Talking Drug"

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Calvin Tucker, PharmD, MBA, FCCM, FFSHP, Pharmacy Manager for the Cancer Care Pharmacy discusses the unique and valuable role pharmacist have within the health care community

In this conversation, Calvin Tucker, PharmD, MBA, FCCM, FFSHP, the Pharmacy Manager for the Cancer Care Pharmacy, discusses how he began his role in pharmacy, along with the changes he has seen since the start of his career. Tucker emphasizes the unique profession of pharmacists and how they can connect to patients within their knowledge of medication. He also reflects on the evolving role of technicians within pharmacy and what can be expected for the future.

Pharmacy Times

Can you introduce yourself?

Pharmacist assists senior woman in buying medicine in pharmacy - Image credit: Drazen | stock.adobe.com

Image credit: Drazen | stock.adobe.com

Calvin Tucker

My name is Calvin Tucker, I am the Pharmacy Manager for the Cancer Care Pharmacy at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.

Pharmacy Times

How did you get into pharmacy?

Calvin Tucker

I got into pharmacy because I was interested in health care, initially thinking about pursuing being a physician. I had an aunt that said, 'Maybe you should look at pharmacy.' I was in college at the time and started talking to advisors and practicing pharmacist and really got intrigued by what they were describing. I did my own research and then they described that there was a doctorate program. That really piqued my interest, so I continued to pursue undergrad courses to apply to pharmacy school. Within the first couple weeks of just being enrolled in the program, and talking with my professors, I knew that I had made the right decision. Then it was just learning and growing from that standpoint. But initially, it was suggested by my aunt that I looked into it, who was a nurse at the time.

Pharmacy Times

How have you seen the role of the pharmacists change and evolve throughout your career?

Calvin Tucker

It's still evolving. I think initially, and still to some degree right now that it was very product focused or medication focus. Making sure that you could dispense it appropriately, making sure you can distribute it appropriately, and that was what we tended to focus on. I think to a degree pharmacy will always have that responsibility. But I think what it's transforming into now is more direct patient care, as far as the medication management, the care coordination, the follow up and side effect monitoring and the effectiveness of the medication. We see it moving from being product focus to more cognitive functions, that focus on the overall outcomes of the patient and more care coordination and medication management.

Pharmacy Times

What does the value of the pharmacist mean to you?

Calvin Tucker

That's an interesting question. I had a professor Rick Foley, who described it to me this way.I always remember this and I think it's a great way to talk about the value of pharmacists. Within health care, you have a lot of different great professionals with different expertise and things that they focus on. But regardless of where you go within health care, at some point, you're going to encounter medications — whether it's for a procedure, or you have something going on. Part of your experience at some point will be some type of interaction or administration of a medication. The only health care professional that really talks drug is the pharmacists —how to take it, what they do well, what they don't do well, how to monitor them. If you can talk drug and relate that to patients and relate that to the other members of the health care team, you can be extremely valuable. That skill is extremely valuable. Throughout my career, I think I've seen that to be true, too. There are different disciplines within medicine that are more medication tested than others, but the ability to talk drug, and to convey the importance of how to take it, how to monitor it, what it does, well, what it doesn't do well, has been extremely valuable. The other health care professionals understand that that's really a gap or deficit in their own knowledge, so they welcome that expertise. Because we have that, and we're seeing new and innovative ways to showcase that, that further helps the pharmacist’s role grow. I think the ability to talk drug is unique to pharmacists, and extremely valuable to the healthcare team.

Pharmacy Times

How do you see the future of pharmacy evolving?

Calvin Tucker

There is a lot of different I think, external factors that will factor into it. I think we will see the role of pharmacy technicians grow into the day to day and the operational needs that are required within a pharmacy. I think you'll see pharmacy technician responsibilities and roles grow. We will see a further transition of pharmacists into roles where they're needed for direct patient care activities, when it's really managing and caring for patients. As we see, provider status is something that will happen in the national level, it is happening a lot at state level. We're going to see the growth of collaborative practice agreements and pharmacists be seen as more like mid-level practitioners that can manage medication for diseases that are medication intensive. We'll see that aspect really flourish and we're starting to see that with a boom of ambulatory practices. Pharmacogenomics, even with a Hema, which is, which is what I deal with on a day-to-day basis. You're seeing these roles, and the reliance on pharmacists grow in this manner. I also think you'll see pharmacists continue to grow and flourish within leadership roles. Pharmacy is unique in the sense that it is both clinical and operations — we must be operations because we're supply chain. We deal heavily with a medication product on an inventory, but it's also very clinical in the sense that we take care of patients as well. For pharmacists to be able to understand both those worlds and how they relate, and how they interact with each other, I think it's extremely valuable from a strategic and a leadership perspective. You'll start to see more and more pharmacists into those roles as well. As we see increasing roles of technicians, as we see the better use of technology, and artificial intelligence that helps us take care of patients better, you'll see pharmacist’s role grow and from a leadership and their involvement in how we take care of patients.

Pharmacy Times

How are you celebrating this American Pharmacists Month?

Calvin Tucker

Here at Mayo, we always take the week to have different games and activities and just ways to highlight and celebrate the pharmacists in our teams at what they do. We get some of the other departments involved and let them know that as pharmacy week so they can make sure that they mention or go by the pharmacy and express their gratitude and appreciation. But really it is focused on work and there's a litany of activities that will have at work for everyone on the team to make sure that they know that we appreciate and understand the work that they do. That is extremely valuable to the overall picture of patient care.

Pharmacy Times

Is there anything you'd like to add?

Calvin Tucker

Being involved in pharmacy opened my introduction into health care and just a world and understanding that I don't know if I would have, I didn't get involved in pharmacy. I am forever grateful for being able to be in this profession, and the doors and the perspective that it opened for me.

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