In-person conferences help pharmacists disengage from distractions, immerse themselves in educational content and professional development


Pharmacy hours interviewed David DeRemer, PharmD, BCOP, FCCP, FHOPA, past chair of the Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association (HOPA) Board of Trustees, associate director of Experimental Therapeutics at the University of Florida Health Cancer Center, and associate clinical professor at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy, on insights from the 2022 HOPA Annual Conference.

Alana Hippensteele: Hi, I’m Alana Hippensteele with Pharmacy hours. With me are David DeRemer, PharmD, BCOP, FCCP, FHOPA, past chairman of the board of directors of the Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association, or HOPA, associate director of Experimental Therapeutics at the University of Florida Health Cancer Center and associate clinical professor . at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy. David is here to discuss ideas for the 2022 HOPA Annual Conference.

So David, what were the key takeaways that came out of the sessions and discussions at the HOPA 2022 conference?

David DeRemer: Yes, thank you very much for inviting me here today to discuss some of the developments from our annual conference that we just had in Boston. The first that really comes to mind is the need to combat burnout.

It happened – there was a PGY2 resident last year at the Mayo Clinic named Alison Golbach, PharmD, BCPS, and if you’re interested, her data was featured in the Clinical Oncology Practice Journal log. So she surveyed our members last year and identified approximately 65% ​​of our members who responded to that survey, which was actually a large survey sample — over 500 pharmacists participated.

With this survey, you have seen the extent of burnout within our organization. So the board heard that, and so did the annual conference planning committee. For our keynote speaker John G. Kuhn this year, we selected Bryan Sexton, PhD, who is an expert on burnout, and he is from the Duke Center for Healthcare Safety & Quality. I have to say, that was probably the best talk about burnout I’ve ever heard. I think many of us have heard talk of burnout over the past few years, but in reality, it has provided several evidence-based improvements that can somehow have an effect and promote well-being of a person in the context of health care. I just thought it was excellent.

In addition to this session, we also had a leadership roundtable, which really discussed resilience and workforce strategies, and that was done by Andrew Orr-Skirvin and Kate Taucher. Thus, the emphasis has been placed on preventing or helping burnout.

The next one that really caught my eye – and I was initially very impressed with the attendance, as well as the active participation – was the interest in the Oral Chemotherapy Collaborative at HOPA [OCC]. This session was conducted by Justin Gatwood from the University of Tennessee as well as Benyam Muluneh from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

As I just said, I was really impressed with the participation of the participants, we had breakout sessions within this group, and there must have been over 100 people who were in this session, and each table had its own moderator. Really, this committee is focused on the return on investment for pharmacists and collaborative research in this area. This generated a lot of excitement among a variety of participants in this session. That’s something else that really stood out to me about the conference.

Finally, I must say that one of the things that was clearly observed during the meeting was the investment and DEI initiatives within HOPA. I think we’re all aware that this was a big part of Larry Buie’s presidential platform, and we’ve seen some of these moves. First, from an awards perspective, Maurice Alexander of UNC Chapel Hill, along with Britny Brown of the University of Rhode Island, were the first recipients of the first annual DEI award.

This [award] celebrated their work as the head of the DEI task force which has really put in tremendous effort over the past year. I think they provided about 50 recommendations to the board. If you look at this Excel spreadsheet, you’d be surprised how many items they completed in the first 6-8 months of their activities as a working group. I am very impressed with their leadership and the efforts of the task force over the past year.

In addition to these efforts, we also had the first LGBTQ reception, and it was well attended and received really positive feedback. I know from the Board of Directors’ perspective, we received positive feedback about this event.

Finally, we had our first-ever HOPA PharmGradWishList Scholarship recipients, and that was from Joseph Washington of the University of Florida, who was president of [Student National Pharmaceutical Association (SNPhA)] last year, then there was a PGY1 resident from the University of California, San Francisco, and his name was Maher Alhaja, PharmD, and these were the first recipients of our award, and they were attending the HOPA conference for the first time. So I think there were a lot of positive things that happened during the meeting.

I guess if I have to give a take, for people who were unable to attend the HOPA meeting, we will have what we call an AC22 booster session, specifically on May 6th – which will have more of a hematology focus , then May 13 – it’s more of a concentrated solid tumor. So for people who can’t attend, there are mechanisms to capture some of the information that was provided.

Alana Hippensteele: Awesome. Were there any highlights during the conference? You mentioned some interesting awards and discussions, were there any highlights that perhaps surprised you in terms of value or importance?

David DeRemer: Yeah, so I come from a research background, and so one area of ​​interest that really caught my eye was the emergence of artificial intelligence, or AI, in practitioner research. So last year HOPA awarded Benjamin Andrick, PharmD, BCOP, who is at Geisinger Medical Center, the HOPA Research Grant Award, and his presentation was phenomenal. I think it’s interesting to see how the emergence of AI kind of plays out in mainstream pharma research, especially as it relates to more pharmacists engaging in some sort of big data evaluations .

Thus, Ben and his colleagues were looking for machine-based learning techniques to examine [venous thromboembolism (VTE)] prediction in newly diagnosed cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. It was interesting to look at their data and their output in their model when you compare their data to other predictive values ​​or predictive scoring criteria, such as the Khorana score that we traditionally use.

So I think it was a very provocative presentation, which I think got the audience excited – I was in the audience. I’ll say, as a warning, I was Ben’s old [residency program director (RPD)], but I thought it was an excellent presentation. I’m just curious to know more about artificial intelligence, especially as it relates to big data, and new drug combinations for those doing clinical research, I think that’s something to watch .

The other thing that also caught my eye was the exciting news that HOPA will be running an additional ASCO quality training program. In the past, we did this for 1 day, but now we will participate in a 6 month program for its members. This was announced during the 101 quality improvement, as well as the OCC sessions I just mentioned.

So for members who are potentially interested in leading a quality training initiative at their institution, I think you should seek out more information – we will be accepting an application soon. But it was very well received, and I really have to give a lot of effort and credit to Emily Mackler, PharmD, BCOP, who is currently on the board of HOPA, who really spearheaded a lot of these initiatives.

Another thing that I think has been valuable this year has been having our HOPA Patient Advisory Panel to be able to attend and offer their feedback and insights. I think it adds to in-person experiences rather than having virtual meetings. I thought it was great to have them in person.

Finally, I would say there have been a lot of positive comments on Robert S. Mancini, PharmD, BCOP, FHOPA, talk about thanatology, as well as Sarah Wheeler, PharmD, BCOP; Jolynn K. Sessions, PharmD, BCOP, FHOPA; and Laura Cannon, PharmD, MPH, BCOP, really provided a great presentation based on the concept of when the pharmacist becomes a caregiver for dying family members. These 2 sessions also marked me a lot, which were very well received by our members.

Alana Hippensteele: Yeah, absolutely. What was the impact of having the conference in person after 2 years of holding the conference virtually? And more specifically, was the shift to person beneficial in terms of educational value, or was it purely beneficial in terms of networking?

David DeRemer: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think this is a question asked by many, many nonprofits over the next year. In my opinion, and I think of others, many of us experience Zoom fatigue, as well as virtual programming fatigue. So I was very happy to have an in-person experience beyond just in-person networking.

I think these in-person experiences that we will hopefully have over the next few months and continue to have in-person will allow members to kind of disengage from the distractions of work and family life, and really sort of being able to go deeper into educational content as well as professional development and in-person experiences.

Finally, I would say that last year for the annual conference, we made the virtual platform, and we had all the posters of the trainees on this portal. But from a training standpoint, there’s nothing like having a poster behind you and being able to present in person. I think from the interns’ perspective, it was another positive to have an in-person experience that would allow interns to network with individuals, but also to discuss research with members.

The last thing I would like to say also, about the networking experience, I would further say that the interactions with industry partners are much improved, at least in my opinion, compared to the rooms virtual exhibitors that we have had in the past. I really think our industry partners would also agree that in-person communication is more beneficial in this context.


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