Directions in Oncology Pharmacy® is getting to know oncology pharmacy professionals through a series of interviews. In this issue, we talk to Kirollos S. Hanna, PharmD, BCPS, BCOP, oncology pharmacy manager for M Health Fairview Clinics and Surgery Center, Maple Grove in Minnesota, and an assistant professor of pharmacy at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science, Rochester, Minnesota.
Q: What motivated you to become a pharmacist and practice in the oncology space?
A: I was raised in a family of health care workers, which significantly impacted my career path. Although I initially wanted to pursue my education as a PharmD/MD, after learning about the numerous avenues in pharmacy, oncology pharmacy was the best fit for me. I’ve always been passionate about the field.
The most impactful moment in my life was when my mom received a diagnosis of breast cancer when I was young. This instilled in me the passion for the profession. During pharmacy school, I also had a personal experience with oncology and had to undergo a stem cell transplant. Having walked in the patient’s shoes myself, I developed an even stronger connection with the oncology pharmacy practice.
Q: Please talk about the oncology pharmacy initiatives you’ve been involved in this year and what they mean to you.
A: I’ve been involved in various oncology pharmacy initiatives throughout the last year. Despite the pandemic, educational initiatives have remained an interest to many oncology pharmacists.
I currently serve on the executive council for the National Community Oncology Dispensing Association. This year, we’ve implemented numerous educational opportunities to bridge various gaps in knowledge for pharmacists, students, technicians, and multiple members of the health care team.
Additionally, I have had the pleasure to serve the Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) as a member of the education committee and the Oncology Pharmacy Education Network. I have also chaired or cochaired 3 educational initiatives for ACCC, focusing on bladder cancer, oral chemotherapy dispensing models, and care for patients with multiple myeloma.
Over this past year, I have also chaired an educational program for Spire Learning, focusing on the impacts of COVID-19 and cancer care. This is an important program for me because education remains a significant barrier for oncology pharmacists, as practice in the field continues to evolve and becomes more complex. I am honored to be able to contribute in ways that help promote and expand clinical education and provide insight on the value of oncology pharmacists in clinical practice.
Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge currently facing oncology pharmacy?
A: With oncology pharmacy practice constantly facing numerous changes, such as biosimilar integration and value-based reimbursement, I believe one of the biggest challenges for oncology pharmacy is the ability to stay up-to-date on clinical information. Cancer care is no longer a model of cytotoxic chemo- therapy alone. Immunotherapy, cellular therapies, target therapies, biomarkers, cytogenetics, and much more have made outcomes for patients with cancer extremely bright. It is crucial for oncology pharmacists to remain up-to-date on the wealth of knowledge within practice to ensure optimal and safe patient care.
Q: What is a recent advancement or success you think will impact the oncology pharmacy space or that you are personally excited about?
A: The COVID-19 pandemic has allowed oncology practice to transition into a more streamlined approach, to a certain extent. The numerous advances and experiences we have gained through telemedicine will likely become a permanent part of routine oncology practice.
Historically, telemedicine played a limited role outside of managing patients on oral chemotherapy. Today, telemedicine can be used for evaluating patients, education, follow-up, and survivorship. In addition, telehealth and telemedicine can be leveraged to increase pharmacist participation in patient treatment.
Q: What do you enjoy most about practicing in oncology pharmacy?
A: The most enjoyable aspect of my career is the ability to connect with and impact patients and their families. There is no better feeling than knowing you had a positive impact on your patient and hearing them ring that bell upon completion of their treatment. Another exciting part about oncology pharmacy practice is the tremendous growth we have seen over the years, and the amount of collaboration among colleagues to optimize care across the country.
Q: What is one fact about you that may be unexpected to your patients or colleagues?
A: During my pharmacy school career, I received a diagnosis of severe aplastic anemia and under- went chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. This unique experience has really enabled me as a clinician and has fueled my passion and drive within oncology pharmacy practice.
About the Pharmacist
Kirollos S. Hanna, PharmD, BCPS, BCOP
Title: Oncology Pharmacy Manager, M Health Fairview Clinics and Surgery Center, Maple Grove, Minnesota; and assistant professor, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science, Rochester, Minnesota.
Pharmacy School: Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University