Melanie Danilak - ISOPP 2014 Summary Report

After having attending several NOPS conferences, I knew that I would learn a lot about oncology pharmacy that would directly apply to my practice while attending my first ISOPP conference. What stuck with me most, however, were some of the unexpected things I learned that have enhanced not just my practice, but myself as a practitioner.  Much of this insight came from the very first and last sessions of the conference.
In the opening plenary, cancer survivor Mike Lang said that his goal was to broaden our perspectives on the big picture of patient care in oncology.  He sure succeeded in doing that.  Many of us, myself included, have become so specialized in our areas of work that we focus very hard on details of the drugs we use and diseases we treat.  While we are all caring health care providers with the best intentions, it is easy to become so focused on treatments that we lose sight of the fact that we are treating people – human beings, and not just cancers.  It is easy and often necessary to dive into the details but the consequence of that can be losing sight of the big picture.
By sharing his personal cancer story with us, Mike showed us how easy it is to lose one’s own identity in the midst of a cancer diagnosis.  He also demonstrated  the profound effect that one simple  intervention by a health care provider can have on a patient’s outlook and ability to get through treatment.
In addition to enlightening us with some “street lingo” that patients use to refer to cancer drugs, such as the “Red Devil” and “Fire Veins,”  Mike left us with some simple tips to help us foster one of the most important partnerships we build as pharmacists – the partnerships with our patients:
  1. Connect similar patients with one another
  2. Strive for authentic engagement with your patients at the human level at least once per day
  3. Before you interact with a patient, take 30 seconds and try to imagine being in their shoes so that you can begin to understand their context
  4. Just listen
Mike presented us with the challenge not just to save lives, but to change lives and reminded us that each one of us can have an impact as individuals on the well being of our patients. Challenge accepted!
One amazing realization for me, being at my first international conference, was that the diverse group of pharmacy professionals from around the world are dealing with many of the same issues in oncology pharmacy. The closing plenary exemplified this well, as representatives from Canada, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Australia, Germany, and USA came together with a vibrant discussion of important issues surrounding  oral anti-neoplastic agents.  Handling of oral chemotherapy, safety processes, patient education, and adherence were among some of the common themes that we are all thinking about and it was great to learn from each others successes about what we can do to improve practices at our home sites.
I, therefore, left the conference not only with ideas of how I would make an impact as an individual, but also with a sense of community among an international group of pharmacy professionals and with excitement as I think about the tremendous impact we could have on patient care when working together!
Melanie Danilak, BSc. Pharm, ACPR