Mark Brown - ISOPP 2014 Summary Report

Resonance.  I was never very good at physics but revisiting the concept of resonance has new meaning for me after returning from ISOPP XIV. With the help of a CAPhO travel grant, I attended ISOPP at the beginning of April and I’d like to tell you just why and how my trip to ISOPP resonated with me, and so many others.
Wikipedia tells us that in physics, resonance is the tendency of a system to oscillate with greater amplitude at some frequencies than at others.   Frequencies at which the response amplitude is greatest are known as the system’s resonance frequencies, where even small periodic forces can produce large amplitude responses.  Stick with me here—the physics lesson is almost over.  A great example is the playground swing, which acts as a pendulum.  Pushing a person in a swing in time with the natural interval of the swing (its resonant frequency) will make the swing go higher and higher.  That’s because one kind of energy (kinetic) is easily transferred to another (potential) because they are in phase.  This is a special transference of energy, and is the same kind that existed for me at this year’s ISOPP conference.
ISOPP’s leadership and organizing committees provided a program that truly resonated with me, with fantastic topics and speakers that have pushed me to think and explore my own practice. From the sobering account of former pharmacist Eric Cropp’s fatal miss while checking a pediatric patient’s IVF, to Jenn Jupp’s extensive review of EBV-PTLD in hematopoietic stem cell transplant, I was pushed both emotionally and intellectually.
I was energized by the accounts of Mike Lang, cancer survivor, and his artful and inspirational storytelling. He taught me that medical science is only half the equation in patient care—the other half can only be revealed in the wisdom of our patient’s and caregiver’s stories.
Jill Kolesar’s superb review of pharmacogenomic markers and the gap between science and practice reminded me about real distance from bench-top to bedside.
I was taken down a new educational path of pathways by Rowena “Moe” Schwartz about the accumulating complexity of cancer care. Rachel White forced me to re-think about human factors and why reliance on vigilance in the preparation and administration of chemotherapy is not the solution; that carefully thought-out systems will ultimately protect us and patients from ourselves and our “group thinking”.
I was reminded by moderator and Chair Alexandre Chan how much we all respond to a heart-felt “thank you”.
I learned that one size does not fit all as Michael Sawyer illustrated how scans at the L3 vertebrae in overweight patients may offer a potentially forward-thinking model for chemotherapy dosing. I found myself inspired as we shared ideas and experiences around tables at Tara Leslie’s Hot Topic Cluster discussions.  And so, so much more by so many excellent practitioners and thought leaders.
Finally, at closing, the conference highlighted international similarities and differences in the education of patients and non-oncology colleagues alike regarding oral chemotherapy. Understanding that we operate in different systems within and between countries, I was nonetheless inspired by the great ideas presented. I was intrigued by Steve Stricker’s strategy of the step-wise education of his patients as they start their journey through their cancer diagnosis and treatment. Germany’s pilot for community pharmacist education and BOPA’s training package designed with our non-oncology colleagues in mind reminded me we don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Through information and experience sharing at conferences like ISOPP and CAPhO, we can, as Carlos De Angelis recounted, stand on the shoulder of giants and I would add, lean on our friends in practice.
But the ISOPP experience existed as much between program sessions as it did during. We were entertained by table-side acrobats and fantastical figures on stilts when the circus was brought to us and found camaraderie in shared passions outside of oncology. From chatting with John Wiernikowski and new Polish friends over Italian food to exploring Montreal’s best cuisine guided by foodie Tom McFarlane, our shared mission to care better for our patients is made all the better through stories made together. I looked through the eye of a new lens with fellow shutterbug Mark Pasetka, and hash-tagged outside of twitter with new friends and in these ways ISOPP was all the better for the great and fun people with whom I had the privilege of sharing time.  And although physics still eludes me, I know resonance when I feel it.
Thank you to CAPhO and the CAPhO Awards Committee for that critical push on the ISOPP swing. The opportunity you’ve provided me was not only a ride, but also an inspiration to get behind that swing and be the push for others. Who said work and play had to be different?