Expert: Mentorship in Oncology Pharmacy Has an Impact


The president of HOPA discusses the importance of mentorship in oncology pharmacy as well as the value of HOPA’s mentorship initiatives.

As a part of our celebration of Women Pharmacist Day, Pharmacy Times looks to honor women making a difference in the field of pharmacy. In this interview, Pharmacy Times interviewed LeAnne Kennedy, PharmD, BCOP, CPP, FHOPA, the president of the Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association (HOPA) and an oncology clinical manager at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she is also the founding residency program director, on the impact of mentorship within oncology pharmacy. Kennedy describes her passion for training oncology pharmacists and explains how powerful it has been for her to witness their growth, the impact of which has been a driving force in her career.

Additionally, she notes her drive to mentor others is particularly strengthened by her own lack of a mentor early on in her career. For Kennedy, it was later in her career when mentors became a part of her career trajectory and experience.

Key Takeaways

  1. Inspiration from Dedicated Volunteers: LeAnne Kennedy highlights the standout moments during her presidential term at HOPA and emphasizes the inspiration drawn from getting to know the dedicated volunteers while witnessing their impactful work within the organization.
  2. The Significance of Mentorship and Paying it Forward: Mentorship is important to Kennedy, both as a mentee and mentor, and she notes the rewarding experience of witnessing others' growth and contributions to the field. She also discusses her role in establishing the North Carolina Oncology Pharmacists organization, which provides a platform for pharmacists to connect, educate, and share knowledge.
  3. Recognition of Women in Oncology Pharmacy: Kennedy highlights the contributions of 3 particular women in oncology pharmacy—Alison Gulbis, PharmD, BCOP; Kamakshi Rao, PharmD, BCOP, FASHP; and Zahra Mahmoudjafari, PharmD, MBA, BCOP, FHOPA—and expresses how they have played an important role in addressing workforce shortages and burnout as well as implementing solutions.

Pharmacy Times: Since stepping into your role as the president of HOPA, what have been some standout moments during your presidential term?

LeAnne Kennedy: I have really enjoyed being able to really get to know lots of different people throughout HOPA. Being able to meet and see a lot of the work that our volunteers do, it's just been really inspiring to me. As I have been in different committees, and I've had phone calls…I think it's just been inspiring to me to see how much work is done by our volunteers.

Pharmacy Times: What are some key initiatives you have been championing at HOPA during your presidential term and during your time on the HOPA Board of Directors?

Kennedy: One of the things that I think is really important is that we really continue to focus on the role of the oncology pharmacist and are trying to help people to know who we are and what our roles are. So, I think it's important that we continue to do that—hat was something that we really focused on over the past year. And through our Time to Talk initiative, to be able to continue to share that with other members and other people as we are working with them. Even yesterday, [I] was just sitting on the plane and talking to my seatmate and telling him what an oncology pharmacist does. So, that's 1 of the initiatives.

Then the next [initiative] this year, we really are trying to work on trying to expand and help our residents—our new practitioners—find a place within HOPA. I think that that's been an important thing is that they see HOPA as a home for them, and then [we] help them to find ways to get engaged.

Pharmacy Times: How has your passion for training oncology pharmacists helped to shape your career and its trajectory?

Kennedy: One of the things that I love to do is to train other people. To see that light, when they get it—when you're explaining a clinical practice subject, and that lightbulb goes off—I think that's so exciting, then to see that as they get involved within HOPA. So, as I see past presidents and past students who are on committees or who give a presentation, I think that that's rewarding to see if you pay it forward, you get to see how it expands throughout time.

"To see that light, when they get it—when you're explaining a clinical practice subject, and that lightbulb goes off—I think that's so exciting, then to see that as they get involved within HOPA." Image Credit: © InputUX -

"To see that light, when they get it—when you're explaining a clinical practice subject, and that lightbulb goes off—I think that's so exciting, then to see that as they get involved within HOPA." Image Credit: © InputUX -

Pharmacy Times: What has been the role of mentorship for you in your career, whether as a mentor or being mentored?

Kennedy: I really didn't have a mentor when I was going through my early career, and so, that was something that I wish I had. I have found mentors later on in my career because I needed that. Sally Barbour over at Duke…and Ashley Engelman, who was the transplant pharmacist at Duke, [they] were 2 of my mentors [who were] able to kind of guide me. So, that was something I felt very passionate about. We needed to be able to have good mentorship for other pharmacists and trainees. And so, I think that's something that HOPA has done really well and [it is] something that I have felt really passionate about.

Pharmacy Times: What are some efforts you have focused on within oncology pharmacy in your state of North Carolina?

About the Expert

LeAnne Kennedy, PharmD, BCOP, CPP, FHOPA, is the president of Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association (HOPA). She is also a residency program director who is passionate about training oncology pharmacists. Kennedy has also been a pioneer in oncology pharmacy in North Carolina. She also teaches at multiple area schools of pharmacy and at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in addition to coordinating an elective course in oncology at Campbell University College of Pharmacy and Health Services. In 2005, she was the first recipient of HOPA’s Award of Excellence and in 2016, became a Fellow of HOPA as part of the inaugural class.

Kennedy: As I mentioned, I really didn't have a mentor kind of starting off, and so, I didn't do an oncology residency, I didn't have a residency director. I was really struggling with how I reach out to other pharmacists to ask questions. HOPA wasn't here yet, and I had been thinking about trying to find a way to connect with North Carolina Oncology Pharmacists (NCOP). I started talking to Sally Barbour at a meeting in New Orleans—I can vividly remember where we were—and was just talking to her about how I really would love to be able to reach out to other people and other institutions. And so, on the back of the napkin—just like most organizations are started—we created a plan for the NCOP. 22 years ago, [we had] started this group of pharmacists to come together to educate, to share knowledge, and to be able to get to know each other both at the academic centers, but also in the smaller practices so that they know who to reach out to. That has grown and expanded over the past 22 years.

Pharmacy Times: Are there any women in oncology pharmacy, including in research, who you would like to call out due to their contribution to the field?

Kennedy: One of the incredible groups of women who have really worked hard in both research and in clinical development, is a group of 3 ladies—Alison Gulbis, Kamakshi Rao, and Zahra Mahmoudjafari—who have worked over the past 2 years in the workforce shortage and burnout trying to help identify why people that are leaving. Recently, this past year before the HOPA meeting, we had an annual pre-conference meeting with leaders from all across the country to come in and talk about some of the key solutions and [we’re] really trying to not just identify the problem, but what are some things we can do to fix and improve that. And so, those 3 ladies have really been an important in the collaboration and improving the workforce. We're excited to hear more of their research that's going to be presented at our Fall meeting in Austin this November.

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