HOPA Past President: In-Person Conferences Help Pharmacists Disengage From Distractions, Delve Into Educational Content, Professional Development

David DeRemer, PharmD, BCOP, FCCP, FHOPA, a past-president on the board of Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association (HOPA), discusses key takeaways from the HOPA 2022 annual conference.

Pharmacy Times interviewed David DeRemer, PharmD, BCOP, FCCP, FHOPA, a past-president on the board of the Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association (HOPA), assistant director of Experimental Therapeutics at the University of Florida Health Cancer Center, and clinical associate professor at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy, on insights from the HOPA 2022 annual conference.

Alana Hippensteele: Hi, I’m Alana Hippensteele with Pharmacy Times. Joining me is David DeRemer, PharmD, BCOP, FCCP, FHOPA, a past-president on the board of the Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association, or HOPA, assistant director of Experimental Therapeutics at the University of Florida Health Cancer Center, and clinical associate professor at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy. David is here to discuss insights from the HOPA 2022 annual conference.

So David, what are some key takeaways that came out of sessions and discussions at the HOPA 2022 conference?

David DeRemer: Yeah, thanks a lot for having me here today to discuss some of the ongoings of our annual conference that we just had in Boston. The first one that really comes to my mind is the need to address professional burnout.

This came about—there was a PGY2 resident last year at the Mayo Clinic named Alison Golbach, PharmD, BCPS, and if you're interested, her data was presented in the Journal of Clinical Oncology Practice journal. So, she surveyed our membership last year and identified about 65% of our members who responded to that survey, which was actually a large survey sample—over 500 pharmacists participated.

With that survey, you saw the scope of professional burnout within our organization. So the board heard this, as well as the annual conference planning committee. For our John G. Kuhn keynote speaker this year, we selected Bryan Sexton, PhD, who's an expert on professional burnout, and he's from the Duke Center for Healthcare Safety & Quality. I must say, this was probably the best burnout talk I've ever heard. I think many of us have heard burnout talks over the past several years, but really, he provided several evidence-based improvements that can sort of effect and promote a person's wellbeing in the health care setting. I just thought that was excellent.

In addition to this session, we also had a leadership roundtable, which really discussed resiliency and workforce strategies, and that was done by Andrew Orr-Skirvin and Kate Taucher. So, there was a focus on preventing or assisting in professional burnout.

The next one that really got my attention—and I was first very impressed with the attendance, as well as the active participation—was the interest in HOPA’s Oral Chemotherapy Collaborative [OCC]. This session was done by Justin Gatwood at the University of Tennessee as well as Benyam Muluneh at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

As I just said, I was really impressed with the participation in the attendance, we had breakout sessions within that group, and there must have been over 100 individuals who were in that session, and each table had its own moderator. Really, this committee's focus is on the return of investment for pharmacists and collaborative research in this area. It just drew a lot of excitement across a variety of attendees in that session. That was something else that really sort of stuck with me about the conference.

Then lastly, I should say that one of the things that was clearly observed at the meeting was the investment and DEI initiatives within HOPA. I think we're all aware this was a major portion of Larry Buie's presidential platform, and we were able to observe some of these initiatives. First, from an award standpoint, Maurice Alexander from UNC Chapel Hill, as well as Britny Brown from University of Rhode Island, they were the first recipients of the first annual DEI award.

This [award] celebrated their work leading the DEI task force that really just had tremendous efforts over this past year. I think they provided about 50 recommendations to the board. If you look at that Excel spreadsheet, you would be surprised on how many items they've completed within the first 6 to 8 months of their activities as a taskforce. I’m very impressed with their leadership as well as the taskforce efforts over the past year.

In addition to those efforts, we also had the first LGBTQ reception, and this was well-attended and really received some positive feedback. I know from the board's perspective, we had received some positive feedback about that event.

Then lastly, we had our first ever recipients of the HOPA PharmGradWishList award scholarships, and this was from Joseph Washington from the University of Florida, who was a president of [Student National Pharmaceutical Association (SNPhA)] last year, and then there was a PGY1 resident from the University of California, San Francisco, and his name was Maher Alhaja, PharmD, and these were the first recipients of our award, and they were attending the HOPA conference for the first time. So I think there were a lot of positive things that occurred during the meeting.

I guess if I'm getting to give a plug, for those individuals who were unable to attend the HOPA meeting, we'll have what we refer to as an AC22 encore session, specifically on May 6—that will have more of a hematology focus, and then on May 13—it has more of a solid tumor focused. So, for those individuals who are unable to attend, there's some mechanisms to capture some of that information that was provided.

Alana Hippensteele: Great. Were there any breakout moments of note at the conference? You mentioned some awards and some valuable discussions, were there any moments of note that perhaps surprised you in terms of their value or importance?

David DeRemer: Yeah, so I come from a research background, and so one area of interest that really sort of drew my eye was the emergence of artificial intelligence, or AI, in practitioner research. So this past year, HOPA awarded Benjamin Andrick, PharmD, BCOP, who's at Geisinger Medical Center, the HOPA Research Grant Award, and his presentation was phenomenal. I think it's interesting to see how the emergence of AI sort of plays itself into traditional pharmacy research, particularly as it relates to more pharmacists engaging in sort of big data evaluations.

So, Ben and his colleagues were looking at machine-based learning techniques to look at [venous thromboembolism (VTE)] prediction in newly diagnosed patients with cancer receiving chemotherapy. It was interesting to look at their data and their output into their model when you look at their data compared to other predictive values or predictive scoring criteria, such as the Khorana Score that we have been using traditionally.

So I think that was a very provocative presentation, which I think drew some audience enthusiasm—I was in the audience. I'm going to say that, as a disclaimer, I was Ben's former [residency program director (RPD)], but I thought that was an excellent presentation. I'm just curious about artificial intelligence, particularly as it relates to big data, as well as looking at novel drug combinations for those who practice in clinical research, I think that's something to be looking out for.

The other thing that caught my eye as well was the exciting news that HOPA will be hosting an additional ASCO quality training program. In the past, we've done this for 1 day, but we are going to participate now in a 6-month curriculum for its members. This was announced during the quality improvement 101, as well as the OCC sessions I just mentioned.

So for members who potentially would want to lead a quality training initiative at their institution, I think you should be looking out for more information—we will be accepting an application soon. But this was very well received, and I really have to give a lot of efforts and credits to Emily Mackler, PharmD, BCOP, who's a current HOPA board member, who really led a lot of these initiatives.

Another thing, I think, which was a value this year was having our HOPA patient advisory panel to be able to attend and offer their feedback and perspectives. I think this adds to the in-person experiences rather than sort of having the virtual meetings. I thought it was great to have them in person.

Then lastly, I'd say there was a lot of positive comments on Robert S. Mancini, PharmD, BCOP, FHOPA, talk on thanatology, as well as Sarah Wheeler, PharmD, BCOP; Jolynn K. Sessions, PharmD, BCOP, FHOPA; and Laura Cannon, PharmD, MPH, BCOP, really provided a very nice presentation based upon the concept of when the pharmacist becomes a caretaker for family members who are terminally ill. Those 2 sessions really stuck out in my mind as well, which were very well received from our membership.

Alana Hippensteele: Yeah, absolutely. What was the impact of having the conference in person after 2 years of holding the conference virtually? And specifically, was the shift to in person beneficial in terms of educational value, or was it purely beneficial in terms of networking?

David DeRemer: Yeah, that's a great question. I think that's a question being asked by many, many nonprofit organizations over the next year. In my opinion, and I think in others’, many of us are experiencing Zoom fatigue, as well as virtual programming fatigue. So I was very happy to have an in-person experience beyond the scope of just having in-person networking.

I think these in-person experiences that we’ll hopefully have over the next several months and will continue to be in person will allow the members to sort of disengage from the distractions of work and home life, and really sort of be able to delve into educational content as well as professional development and in-person experiences.

Lastly, I would say that, last year for annual conference, we did the virtual platform, and we had all the trainees’ posters on that portal. But from a training perspective, there's nothing like having a poster behind you and being able to present in person. I think from a trainee perspective, this was another positive about having an in-person experience that would allow trainees to network with individuals, but also sort of discuss the research with membership.

The last thing I would like to say too, about the networking experience, I would further state that the interactions with industry partners is much improved, at least in my opinion, compared to virtual exhibitor halls that we've had in the past. I really think that our industry partners would agree as well in sort of having that in-person communication is more beneficial in this setting.