Pharmacists Need to Be An Advocate, Recognized as Integral to Care Teams


President (2022 to 2023) of the Hematology Oncology Pharmacists Association (HOPA) highlights the many ways that hematology/oncology pharmacists can collaborate with care teams to improve access to care at HOPA Annual Conference 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona from March 29 to April 1.

Heidi D. Finnes, PharmD, BCOP, FHOPA, is the Senior Manager of Pharmacy Cancer Research at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, as well as the President of HOPA. She reflects on the past year of her presidency, the necessity of outside-of-the-box thinking for patient care, and new breakthroughs in medication therapy managment.

PT Staff: The theme of HOPA 2023 is Reconnect. Rebuild. Reimagine. Can you explain more about the backstory of this slogan and how it has directed this year’s presentations, insights, and educational content?

Heidi D. Finnes, PharmD, BCOP, FHOPA: I have to give kudos to our Annual Conference Programming Committee for the excellent theme this year. It's actually not as much based, I don't think, on our content as it is kind of about everything that's been going on in the world. The Reconnect is about being back together, being able to do some of the networking that everyone loves to do at the HOPA Annual Conference. The Rebuild is really talking about coming, hopefully—finally— out of the COVID-19 pandemic. And to really look at it, instead of seeing COVID-19 as a loss, but as an opportunity to rebuild and reimagine the work that we do as oncology pharmacists on a day-to-day basis.

The Reconnect really is reflected in much of what we're doing during the HOPA conference. We have several intentionally scheduled networking types of meetings, along with our Keynote Speaker, who is someone who's going to talk a lot about resilience. Kelsey Tainsh (Bachelor of Science in Recreation, Patient Advocate) is a 2-time pediatric cancer survivor who's going to talk about her journey after 2 bouts of cancer and how she came back and is better and stronger than ever. And so throughout that's kind of interwoven that that rebuilding piece.

In addition, we have some sessions on practice management, leadership opportunities. And then we have some diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) types of topics as well. One that I'm excited for is incorporating sexual orientation and gender identity into patient care. And so, I'm excited, it's a great theme. But I think also, if you've looked at the programming, it's a lot of great educational topics and opportunities to network.

PT Staff: In what ways did serving as President of HOPA (2022 to 2023) after serving on the board shift your perspective about the current landscape of pharmaceutical hematology/oncology care?

Heidi D. Finnes, PharmD, BCOP, FHOPA: I think, you know, I have to say it's been the greatest honor to be president of HOPA over this past year. I think being the president, you get to see all the incredible things that hematology/oncology pharmacists—whether they be at large institutions, small community hospitals, and specialty pharmacies, you know, wherever they may be—do to enhance the care, but also the safety, of patients with cancer. And so, I think the opportunity to really see that at a much broader level, to see the things that HOPA as an organization is doing to collaborate.

To ensure that every patient has access to a hematology/oncology pharmacist has never been more evident. I think what I take away from this year is really that we need to be a big advocate. I think the timing is right for pharmacists to really be recognized as integral members of that care team. And really, I think the opportunity is prime for those of us that have served in those areas to get out to our lawmakers, and others to be sure that patients know they have that resource that they can ask for.

PT Staff: Are there any innovations in medication therapy management that are particularly exciting to you?

Heidi D. Finnes, PharmD, BCOP, FHOPA: I think there's so many exciting things, and I think pharmacists, again, are really at the forefront of being able to provide exceptional care, things through the COVID-19 pandemic. With telehealth, wearable technology, and innovative ways in which we can interact with patients through drive-up services. It's been really inspiring.

I think to think outside of the box of how we can provide care to patients with cancer. I think it's also an opportunity during a time where we know cancer is not equitable across many underserved populations. Instead of having the patient come to the larger healthcare institution, it's really a time to reimagine and rebuild the way that we provide care to patients. And so, we can (as pharmacists), be that conduit of telehealth visits like this, talking to patients about clinical trials or early monitoring of side effects to ensure safety but to also promote adherence to other medications.

Can we infuse things in the home of patients so that it's more convenient for them to get treatment, particularly if they're younger or not able to get to larger cities or institutions to do that? I think it's really a fun time because this type of a platform of ways in which to give cancer treatments have not yet been imagined. And so, I think the time is really one for pharmacists to highlight all the things they can do in collaboration with physicians, nurses, and physician assistants, as well as nurse practitioners.

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