Dr. David DeRemer reflects on his year as president of the Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association

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David L. DeRemer, Pharm.D., FCCP, BCOP

David DeRemer, Pharm.D., BCOP, FCCP, FHOPA, a clinical associate professor of pharmacotherapy and translational research, has served as president of the Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association, or HOPA, since spring 2020.

As president, DeRemer was responsible for strategic planning, participate in developing the annual budget and assist with committee appointments, among many other responsibilities. He joined HOPA in 2006 and served on the Board of Directors from 2015-17.

HOPA is a nonprofit professional organization formed in 2004 to help oncology and hematology pharmacy practitioners and their associates provide optimal cancer care. HOPA supports research, conducts educational conferences to advance knowledge, encourages professional development and advocates for health policy issues that improve patient care. Currently, HOPA has more than 2,800 members, which includes oncology practitioners, as well as pharmacy administrators, researchers, residents, interns and technicians specializing in hematology/oncology practice.

Below, DeRemer reflects on his time as HOPA president, having served during a historic pandemic and witnessed firsthand how pharmacy oncology has adapted during a trying year.

Reflecting back on your year as president of HOPA, what are some accomplishments you are proud of?

The Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association (HOPA) is a nonprofit professional organization that supports research, conducts educational conferences to advance knowledge, encourages professional development and advocates for health policy issues that improve patient care. HOPA has approximately 4,100 members that includes oncology pharmacists, as well as pharmacy administrators, researchers, residents, interns and technicians specializing in hematology/oncology practice. HOPA’s strategic plan reflects four core goal areas, the pillars of the association: Professional Development, Professional Resources and Tools, Research, and Advocacy.

Given the notable challenges that 2020 provided, I think our organization had some significant accomplishments within each of the strategic pillars.  These represent some of the many efforts:

Professional Development

  • Developed virtual Annual Conference 2021 with over 50 learning opportunities and BCOP programming (1,400 attendees)
  • Partnership with ASCO to provide Quality Training Program (2 sessions)
  • Provided virtual Practice Management Program in Fall 2020 (400 attendees)
  • Released BCOP Preparatory and Recertification course
  • Collaborations with Medscape, NCCN, Horizon CME, and Pharmacy Times for continuing education
  • Launched Core Competency Certificate Program

Tools and Resources

  • Partnered with Bristol Myers Squibb, Regeneron, and Sanofi- Genzyme to launch Time to Talk® Immuno-Oncology educational tool kits for both immune checkpoint inhibitors and cellular therapies
  • Continued oral chemotherapy education partnership with NCODA, ONS and ACCC (oralchemoedsheets.com)

Advocacy

  • Developed the first Patient Advocacy Townhall at virtual Annual Conference 2021
  • Activity of Public Policy Committee on COVID-19 response
  • Conducted Oncology Drug Shortage survey
  • Collaborated with coalition partners to advocate for pharmacists and cancer patients 

Research

  • Offered $225,000 to membership (research grants/training programs)

Lastly, I am very excited about our diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives that have been initiated and will permeate all of our strategic pillars over the next year. We conducted interviews in December on organizational consultants in this space. As an organization, we partnered with Next Pat Ltd. who has provided guidance in cultural shifts to institute positive change. This year we conducted two DEI retreats that have been truly impactful. I am excited to see many of these initiatives come to fruition over the next year for our organization.

What was your experience like serving as president of HOPA during a global pandemic?

The experience provided many challenges such as pivoting to virtual education for all meetings, reassessment of strategic plan initiatives given the impact of COVID-19 on our committee volunteers and navigating the financial challenges that nonprofit organizations have faced due to the pandemic.

An additional challenge that we faced this year was the transition to a new management company. In October 2020, we fully transitioned to being managed by Executive Director Inc. (EDI) located in Milwaukee, WI. EDI is a leading association management company which provides counsel and management to 48 national and international medical, professional, and scientific subspecialties. We were able to conduct a national search for an executive director and over the past several months have onboarded a new staff that comprises 22 FTEs that are instrumental in assisting us with strategic initiatives. I have so many people to thank for their efforts over the year, including Anne Krolikowski (ED), Tara Withington (Vice-President of EDI), the HOPA Board of Directors, and our 26 committees and seven Task Forces which have made this transition a success. 

How has the field of oncology pharmacy responded to the pandemic?

There has been significant change over the past year in oncology pharmacy practice. Early in the pandemic, we observed personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages that affected various pharmacy systems for personnel that handle hazardous drugs. Thankfully, this has since resolved and didn’t seem to impact chemotherapy production. But there continues to be ongoing change in both inpatient and outpatient practices. 

For investigational drug service (IDS) pharmacists, there was a major shift in shipping of oral drugs directly to patients. Post-COVID, I see a major shift in clinical trials to incorporate more remote site initiation visits (SIVs), remote safety laboratory collections, e-signatures for informed consent, promotion of telehealth, and continued shipping medications to the patient. HOPA has an IDS-special interest group (SIG) that has been working on the creation of several White Papers on future practice changes. Our annual Fall meeting planned this year in Washington, D.C. will have an IDS track to discuss some of these emerging changes.

What challenges do you foresee the field of oncology pharmacy facing in the future?

Foreseen challenges include periodic oncology drug shortages, professional legislative action for reimbursement of services, integration into value-based care, the expansion of biosimilars in oncology, high cost of drug therapies, increasing caseload and complexity of care, regulatory/reimbursement changes, and the emergence of third-party influence on site of care.

The challenge that I continue to be most concerned with is the continuing trend of well-being and burnout amongst our profession. Investigators from the Mayo Clinic recently presented data at our Annual Conference on the evaluation of burnout among our organization. Over 60% of hematology/oncology pharmacists reported high levels of burnout biased on the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI). In a multivariate analysis, factors associated with burnout included increasing age, increased workload hours, more administrative duties, concern for a medical error within 3 months, unawareness of well-being programs, and the impact of COVID-19. This is a major concern for all health care professionals. A recent survey of ASCO’s membership found that 45% of medical oncologists reported experiencing emotional exhaustion and/or depersonalization symptoms related to burnout.    This is a complex topic that many are attempting to strive for improvements for their memberships. As an organization, we hope to create some initiatives which will provide meaningful impact on our members.