The Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association Makes Purposeful Strides Towards Inclusive Care

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The Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association (HOPA) created committees, inclusion statements, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) checkpoints to improve healthcare for underserved or historically less included populations.

Heidi D. Finnes, PharmD, BCOP, FHOPA, is the Senior Manager of Pharmacy Cancer Research at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, as well as the 2022 to 2023 President of the Hematology/ Oncology Pharmacy Association (HOPA). Her continued discussion with Pharmacy Times adresses innovations that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic, updated DEI initiatives, and the future of the organization at HOPA Annual Conference 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona, from March 29 to April 1, 2023.

PT Staff: Did the COVID-19 pandemic influence new innovations in patient care?

Heidi D. Finnes, PharmD, BCOP, FHOPA: I hate to say that the pandemic… you know, there was so much loss and so many negative things associated with the pandemic,but I do think it really forced us to think outside the box in how we can do things in a more novel way that's [also] more convenient for patients [and] doesn't expose them to many of the risks of sitting in a large lobby, waiting for your provider appointment or your infusion visits. "How do we do it more conveniently for patients?"

I think we're starting to see some of that as objectives for being more novel and bringing clinical trials to community settings so that more patients can partake. And I, I think it's something that's been needed.

Particularly I work in the clinical trial space. We don't have many of those underserved populations in clinical trials, because they must come to larger cities that have larger academic institutions. And so, I think this is the time to try to reimagine how we can do some of these things to better encompass all Americans for their health care needs.

And I just think [about] the ingenuity of people. I read on the East Coast, drive-up clinics—where, if [patients] were getting injections—had a nurse and a team that was ready, and they did it in [the patient’s] car so they didn't have to park. It’s those types of things. As cancer becomes more of a chronic disease, I think the novelness of how we allow patients to continue in their day to day lives is so important. But if we want to advance the science, I think we need to be sure that we're thinking of ways that make it convenient for patients.

PT Staff: How does HOPA aim to support diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) for pharmacists in oncology/hematology? What does this look like in the year 2023?

Heidi D. Finnes, PharmD, BCOP, FHOPA: HOPA has done a lot. Within the organization, we developed (in 2020) the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. And within that group, we had a lot of inspiring individuals who really looked at our organization from the inside out. What they did was help us to develop a DEI statement. They developed toolkits that we can use within our own institutions, within HOPA itself, and then really went through piece by piece— our strategic plan— all the things that we do to elect new board members, new committee members, and things like that. It helps us use that that DEI lens to be sure that our members know how much they matter to us, and that that inclusive piece really matters as a whole to the organization.

With that we've now got DEI touchpoints. And all our committee charges and submitted a manuscript to the Journal of Hematology & Oncology Pharmacy about how they went through this very step by step process. And we're very proud, you know, as I said, of the work that they've done here, we now have an inclusion statement for our annual meeting, as well as for anyone who wants to run for office, knowing that that's an expectation, as well as all our committee’s structure, such that there's a dedication of everyone to this lens of our organization.

So, we're proud. We know that there's a lot more work to do, but again, I think having that purposefulness has really been helpful within the organization. We also know that there are many patients that are underserved or potentially not as inclusive in how we provide health care. We've been looking specifically through many of our programs to really promote what hematology/oncology pharmacists do.

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