Expert: The Value of Positive Patient Outcomes and the Rise of New Opportunities for Pharmacists

Commentary
Video

Laura Akers, PharmD, RPh/CPh, MBA, BCOP discusses the role of the pharmacist, how the pharmacy profession has changed, and what is to come in the field.

Laura Akers, PharmD, RPh/CPh, MBA, BCOP Oncology Clinical Research Pharmacist Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, discusses the role of the pharmacist, how the pharmacy profession has changed, and what is to come in the field to highlight American Pharmacists Month.

Pharmacy Times

Can you introduce yourself?

Young female pharmacist working in her large pharmacy. Placing medications, taking inventory. Lifestyle - Image credit: Lubero | stock.adobe.com

Image credit: Lubero | stock.adobe.com

Laura Akers

My name is Laura Akers, I'm the Clinical Research pharmacist at Florida Cancer Specialists and Research Institute and I provide clinical pharmacy support for our early phase and late phase research programs across the organization.

Pharmacy Times

How did you get into pharmacy?How have you seen the profession change over your career?

Laura Akers

I knew I wanted to go into health care at a very young age. While I was still in elementary school, my grandfather became acutely ill and got taken to the hospital. I wasn't made aware of everything that was going on, but I knew that they had said he didn't have much time left and to get his affairs in order, because he was coming close to the end. He underwent multiple procedures and treatments and improved to the point, but he was back to himself. Just being on the periphery of that situation made me realize that I wanted to do that when I grew up. I wanted to be a part of a team that brings patients out of out of despair or situations where there's not much hope, back to restore good health. Fast forward to my undergraduate degree, I majored in biochemistry and had the opportunity to shadow multiple radiologists actually and volunteered in the emergency room. I remember learning about telomeres and cellular mortality in class while also gaining these various experiences and watching procedures outside of the classroom and learning through listening to their dictations. Through all of that, I realized I didn't really want to do anything necessarily so invasive. But between the classwork, in my experiences, it became very obvious to me that medications were really important. I applied to pharmacy school and worked in retail during school, and then after getting my doctorate, I went on to complete a residency and I practiced in both inpatient and outpatient settings.Well, in general, I've seen an increase in the number of clinical roles where pharmacists are removed from the physical product itself. Within my realm of oncology, when I first started, we didn't have the abundance of immunotherapy medications that we so commonly used today. This fact used to surprise my residents; I think it made them think I was a little bit old. But we had like interferon and interleukin products, but it was by and large, traditional chemotherapy we were using. With the emergence of checkpoint inhibitors, this was a true game changer for our oncology pharmacy. Not only was it increasing the quantity of life for our patients, but the quality of life was so much improved, because these therapies were so much better tolerated, with a lot fewer side effect. They really gave patients the opportunity to gain both longer longevities, but also quality time with their loved ones. Now we're seeing the emergence of cellular therapies, which also have exciting potential for improved outcomes for our patients.

Pharmacy Times

What is the value of the pharmacists to you personally, and to the overall health care system?

Laura Akers

I love that pharmacy is one of those professions where there are so many varied opportunities within it. I also have a master's in business administration and in that program, we were taught the importance of matching someone's skill sets and interest with their role. Through that you get increased job performance, but also satisfaction and you can do that within pharmacy too. While one pharmacist may be really skilled in-patient education, another may enjoy streamlining in biotics and another may be really efficient and effective at overseeing the activities in a sterile compounding sweep. I work with an incredible team of pharmacists, and we each have our own unique roles that we have to fulfill. But I love that we strive for the same goal of improving outcomes for patients so we can come together and strategize on ways to enhance the quality of care we provide. Pharmacists are able to meet so many medications related needs across the continuum of health care, whether it's helping patients directly or providing support to other members of the healthcare team. With a number of new drugs and biologics on the market today, the pharmacist is able to help members of the healthcare system by never losing sight of what that drug is doing to the patient and how the patient's responding to it. Not only does the pharmacist of course ensure the quality and integrity of the physical product, but they also intervene and alert others on the health care team when a change is needed because of a drug. The pharmacist can educate the team or patients on what to expect and how to handle it, and by maintaining that focus on the patient's experience with the drug. It allows the other members of the healthcare teams to be more efficient in their roles, and we work together to enhance the overall care for the patients.

Pharmacy Times

What is the most rewarding part of pharmacy for you?

Laura Akers

One of the most rewarding parts for me is being able to contribute to those positive patient outcomes. That can mean anything from remedying side effects so that patients don't have to stop their treatments before they've had the opportunity to start working. Or adjusting doses to find a balance between efficacy and toxicity and knowing that that may vary from one patient to the next. Or preventing a drug interaction that would have caused more problems for the patient. I'm still very moved when I see that a patient's had a good scan, or they've gone into complete remission. Working in research, being a part of the bigger picture, the search to find treatments to bring about more remissions or even cure is very fulfilling and rewarding for me.

Pharmacy Times

How do you see the future of pharmacy evolving? How are you celebrating this American Pharmacists Month?

Laura Akers

I think we'll continue to see new opportunities arise for pharmacists, as so many new therapies and specialized treatments emerge. We'll see more pharmacists become specialized because the need for this will continue to grow. Pharmacy technicians are an amazing professional group that can help with so many of the distributive functions that I think we'll see their roles expand in that regard and allow the pharmacist to focus more on clinical aspects of patient care and really helping with personalized medication management. Our whole department is actually getting together next week. I'm looking forward to getting to reflect on what we've done, recognize everyone for their accomplishments and talk about where we're headed next. I'm so grateful to have worked with so many incredible pharmacists over the years, that I even get to summarize the subset of the functions and pharmacists in this interview is a bit like celebration.

Pharmacy Times

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Laura Akers

I just want to say thank you so much for inviting me to participate on this interview. I want to thank all the patients, pharmacists, technicians, physicians, nurses, and other educators and professionals that have really helped shape and inspire me. We each have our own unique experience as we practice as healthcare professionals, and I think with each experience we really gain new insight or new information that helps us be able to apply that in future experiences. When all the disciplines come together, with our unique contributions and background, that's when we're really able to make the biggest impact for others and that's what this is all about.

Related Videos
Hand holding a Narcan Evzio Naloxone nasal spray opioid drug overdose prevention medication
Image credit:  Gorodenkoff | stock.adobe.com
Sun Screen, Photosensitivity, Pharmacy | Image Credit: sosiukin - stock.adobe.com
Catalyst Trial, Diabetes, Hypertension | Image Credit: grinny - stock.adobe.com
Image Credit: © Anastasiia - stock.adobe.com
Various healthy foods -- Image credit: New Africa | stock.adobe.com
LGBTQIA+ pride -- Image credit: lazyllama | stock.adobe.com
Image Credit: © Анастасія Стягайло - stock.adobe.com
© 2024 MJH Life Sciences

All rights reserved.