Pharmacists are in for a treat at this year’s Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association (HOPA) annual conference, March 26-29, in New Orleans. It’s the 10th anniversary of the event, and extra efforts have been made to make it special.
 
“There is a lot of excitement about the 10-year milestone that the organization is hitting. The planning program committee has made a lot of efforts. Each year, we try to make it a great program, but even more so this year,” said incoming HOPA President Michael Vozniak, PharmD, BCOP, the associate director of pharmacy, professional practice, at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia.
 
Outgoing President Niesha Griffith, MS, RPh, the director of pharmacy and infusion services at The Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital, The Ohio State University-Columbus, agreed. “I am just thrilled looking at the programming this year. It is jam packed with great sessions,” she said. “For three days, you can pretty much get everything you need as far as updates in oncology, not only with respect to disease-related topics, but also technical issues like closed-system transfer devices [CSTD].”
 
She was referring to a session devoted to educating pharmacists about the growing number of CSTD models on the market and how to justify their cost to administrators.
 
Anniversary Gala
This year’s meeting will feature a 10th Anniversary Gala: Celebrating Success. “The gala will highlight where we are and where we are going. It will include a silent auction, jazz band and traditional New Orleans fare,” Ms. Griffith said. “The gala is a great way to learn about HOPA, especially for new pharmacists.”
 
Speakers will highlight HOPA’s history and recognize members who have been instrumental to the association’s success. “We are a young enough organization that all of the founding members are still with us and many are attending, so it is a great way to meet people who have been key in the development of HOPA,” Ms. Griffith said.
 
The gala, which will take place at the historic Chicory, an easy five-minute walk from the conference hotel, will offer an additional opportunity for networking at the meeting. Hematology/oncology pharmacists often comment that, although live continuing education is the preferred method for learning, the plethora of networking opportunities is a primary reason for attending the annual HOPA meeting.
 
Preconference Programming
This year, attendees can choose from two preconference workshops. Dr. Vozniak expects the preconference workshop on oncology residency and preceptor program development to be a popular one. Attendees will learn how to prepare for an American Society of Health-System Pharmacists accreditation site visit, establish and expand an oncology postgraduate year 2 program, create programs for oncology preceptor development and encourage residency mentorship and development. An increasing number of pharmacy programs are planning to launch oncology residencies or enhance existing ones.
 
The preconference Oncology 201 workshop will provide pharmacists with a comprehensive overview of thyroid cancer, bladder cancer, uterine cancer, and sarcoma. Last year’s Oncology 101 focused on a different set of malignancies. “These preconference sessions are a nice complement to the regular conference education program,” Dr. Vozniak said. “Our goal each year is to have programs that meet the needs of all of our members. I think these two preconference sessions enable us to do that.”
 
Educational Highlights
The official conference kicks off with the keynote address: an interactive conversation between John G. Kuhn, PharmD, a founding member of HOPA, and Kevin O’Connor, a certified speaking professional and executive coach. Mr. O’Connor specializes in physician executive leadership.
 
The educational sessions have something to offer new and experienced pharmacists, practitioners in leadership roles and researchers. Pharmacists will have ample opportunity to learn about disease-specific management challenges and controversies, new drugs, supportive care issues, ways of improving safety, practice management and administrative pearls.
 
According to Dr. Vozniak, the newly approved and investigational drug update sessions offered each year are always popular. “I find these sessions are just a great way to learn what is new from folks that are using these drugs already,” he said. “The investigational drug update is also helpful. You can get a sneak peak about what may soon be approved, and you can begin to think about how your institution will use the drug or will not use it.”
 
For the second year in a row, attendees will receive a report from the Washington D.C.-based firm Drinker Biddle & Reath, which is employed by HOPA to advise and assist with advocacy initiatives in Washington. “They really have their finger on the pulse of what is going on in Washington,” Ms. Griffith said. “I am really looking forward to the session. Not only are they well informed, they both have a lot of wit and work to make it interesting and fun.”
 
Based on survey feedback from HOPA members, the convention planning committee has added a session on how to develop and submit a high-quality research proposal and another session on how to conduct research on clinical service development and evaluation. “For pharmacists who are at the point in their career that they want to get involved in research, these research-related sessions are great,” she said. “I am really excited we are offering these.”
 
In oncology pharmacy, safety is always a top challenge and attendees will have many opportunities to add to their knowledge base in this area. Monique Gioardana, PharmD, a hematology/oncology clinical pharmacist at Regions Hospital, Greater Minneapolis-St. Paul Area, will deliver “Prepare and Prevent Instead of Repair and Repent: Chemotherapy Errors.” Other sessions offer advice on chemotherapy dosing in obese patients and dose rounding.
 
Daisy Yang, PharmD, BCOP, a clinical pharmacist specialist at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston, will discuss treatment of acute myeloid leukemia in the pregnant woman. “Although rare, the management of cancer in pregnancy remains a challenging therapeutic dilemma. One has to consider the potential toxicities of the proposed chemotherapy regimen, the balance between maternal and fetal well-being and the wishes of the patient and the patient’s family,” Dr. Yang said. “It is even more challenging when we’re dealing with acute leukemia, since the patient needs to be urgently treated. There is not much data or guidance in the literature on how to manage acute leukemia in pregnancy. Therefore, there is a need to educate pharmacists on this topic.”
 
As always, a plethora of excellent sessions are provided on supportive care issues such as mucositis, bone pain, nausea and vomiting. Dr. Vozniak said his favorite sessions are the breakout sessions, which provide snapshots of what pharmacists are doing at different institutions. This year, 10 are being offered.
 
“They are concise and very thought provoking,” he noted. “They provide information that each attendant can take back home and say ‘should we be doing this drug therapy [or practice] at our institution.’ It usually covers a lot of information that hasn’t been published yet.”
 
None of the pharmacists mentioned in this article have any relevant disclosures.