Expert: Addressing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Is an Opportunity, a Priority for HOPA Moving Forward

Britny Brown, PharmD, BCOP, vice chair of the Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association (HOPA) DEI Task Force and clinical assistant professor at the University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy, discusses the role of the task force within HOPA and its impact on the field more broadly.

Pharmacy Times interviewed Britny Brown, PharmD, BCOP, the vice chair of the Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association (HOPA) Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force and clinical assistant professor at the University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy, on the role of the task force within HOPA and its impact on the field more broadly.

Question: What is the role of the DEI Task Force in HOPA, and how does it work with the HOPA board to address issues pertaining to DEI?

Britny Brown: So, the DEI Task Force was convened in 2001. We were given charges that were decided by the board of directors. In large part, the charges were based off responses to the survey that was convened in early 2021 by a consultant to identify areas related to DEI that our members were seeing. So, in the 2021 to 2022 term, the DEI Task Force was given those charges and was able to organize strategic priorities for HOPA as an organization moving forward.

Question: Is the DEI Task Force primarily an oversight body or does it also manage the implementation of initiatives?

Britny Brown: Yeah, the DEI Task Force was convened in 2021. Our role was to respond to charges from the board of directors. So, the board of directors created these charges in response to a member survey that began in early 2021. So, we identified areas that were important to our membership as it pertains to DEI, and we were able to develop strategic priority items moving forward for DEI within the organization.

So, we work collaboratively with the board—Dr. Larry Buie was a great liaison from the board into the DEI Task Force—where we made sure that issues were addressed for the calendar year in which we were working, and then in addition, that we were able to serve as a consultant for other committees for DEI tasks as they came through throughout the year.

Question: Does the DEI Task Force primarily address DEI in relation to the work conducted by members or is it focused on DEI within the member population itself?

Britny Brown: The DEI Task Force’s role for the first year was to identify strategic priorities moving forward. However, we did serve as a consultant for other committees within HOPA in areas where we might be able to help infuse DEI.

So, for this year, we were primarily focused on what we can do moving forward to infuse DEI throughout the whole organization. But we were able to start getting the ball rolling in various pillars within HOPA for this initial year as well.

Question: What are some short-term goals for the HOPA DEI Task Force? Perhaps initiatives that are being focused on this year?

Britny Brown: So, this year for short-term goals, we are hoping to increase transparency within the organization. So, you've seen that already with HOPA’s bylaws.

We also were able to craft a DEI statement largely in part due to Kamakshi Rao and Ashley Chen on the DEI task force—so major kudos to them. As you all have hopefully seen, that DEI statement is available and moving forward members will attest to that DEI statement at several different time points.

Additionally, we're hoping to increase engagement with HOPA, making all our members feel more comfortable in working with HOPA. So, this means volunteerism for committees, as well as being a part of the annual conference, whether it be speaking engagements or interacting with committees or different opportunities as well.

In addition to that, we are partnering with several organizations. So, hopefully you may have seen that HOPA is already working with [organizations such as historically black colleges and universities], as well as PharmGradWishlist, to increase representation within HOPA starting with membership, but hopefully all the way up to the board of directors.

Question: How about longer term goals for the task force?

Britny Brown: So, in the long-term, we hope to increase our engagement with various organizations. So, we spoke about starting our partnerships, but we also want to expand upon that. …

In addition, research and reaching our patients is important. So, although we've been able to have some initiatives already with the time to talk oncology be an example, we hope that hopefully we'll be able to sponsor research that has a health equity focus.

In addition, not just our patients, we want to make sure that our membership remains feeling welcomed. So, we hope to be able to survey that, be transparent with membership engagement, increasing representation in various ways. So not just race and ethnicity, but also gender, sexual orientation, areas of practice—so, your specialty, whether you work in [pediatrics], solid tumors—as well as geographic location—so rural or urban areas—we want to see those members just have a voice within the organization.

So, whether that be at the annual conference or other areas as well, and having representation on our committees, so that we're taking into consideration all the different perspectives that our membership might have.

Question: What are some of the goalposts for these longer-term initiatives you and the task force chair Maurice Alexander will be looking for?

Britny Brown: Moving forward, HOPA’s DEI Task Force is being rolled over into a committee. So big things, there are many strategic priorities over 50 of them. So, we have many different moving goalposts that the DEI committee will be responsible for tracking.

But big things that we'll like to see is increasing representation in our membership, that is something that we will report out on an annual basis. In addition to that representation within our committees and board of directors. So again, increasing that transparency and reporting and tracking it over time.

We also want to see that in research, a health equity focus comes to the forefront. So, as time moves on, we hope to see the results of those research grants that we'll be allowing our memberships to apply to. Finally, fostering and maintaining those relationships with the experts that are already doing the work, [like organizations such as PharmGradWishlist] and reporting that out to our membership as well.

Question: What are some of the challenges you see ahead in the work of the HOPA DEI Task Force?

Britny Brown: The biggest challenge for the DEI Task Force, and soon to be committee, is that there's only one and there's just not enough time. So, we found this even with our task force, every meeting, we only had an hour each month, but we would have many additional meetings, Maurice and I and several very engaged members of our task force, to make sure that the work got done.

So, I think time is our biggest barrier. We have huge momentum, and so, I'm very optimistic that despite time being a barrier, we have momentum that's needed. That comes all the way down from our leadership.

Question: What is your outlook on the future of addressing DEI in the field of hematology/oncology pharmacy?

Britny Brown: There's a lot of work to be done in the DEI space everywhere, not just within pharmacy, but everywhere. But the need for improvement is an opportunity, and I think that we, as an organization, have made this a priority. So, there's a lot of momentum to move this forward. So, I am very positive, or I have a very positive outlook, that we're going to make significant change.

I get impatient. So, it's hard to remember that change takes time. But I do foresee in the next 5 to 10 years that we're going to start to see significant impact on our patient population, and our members will feel more welcomed within the organization. So, I just want to praise the work of Larry Buie in getting this initiative started, and for pushing it forward.

Question: Any closing thoughts?

Britny Brown: So, I want to also take an opportunity to thank Maurice Alexander, who is the chair of the DEI Task Force. We have all learned so much from him. I'm not sure if he was born with it, but he is an amazing leader. His organization, his compassion, his thoughtfulness, and making sure that every voice is heard, has been appreciated by me and the members of our task force, and I just want it to be known to the members of HOPA that we have been in very good hands, and moving forward I'm excited for all that this committee has to do.