The Feist-Weiller Cancer Center, a department of Louisiana State University (LSU) Health Shreveport, provides comprehensive cancer care in a translational research environment. It was founded in 1993 as the Center for Excellence in Cancer Treatment, Research, Education and Prevention by an act of the Louisiana Board of Regents. In 1997, it was renamed the Feist-Weiller Cancer Center in acknowledgment of a philanthropic gift from the Feist and Weiller families. This gift led to the construction of a multidisciplinary outpatient cancer center that is also home to 1 of the 6 St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Affiliate Programs located outside of Memphis, Tennessee.
As an academic institute, there are more than 50 faculty members at work within the 3 divisions of the Feist-Weiller Cancer Center. Each division—the Division of Clinical Cancer Research, the Division of Basic and Translational Cancer Research, and the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control—encourages strong collaboration among researchers and clinicians to increase the understanding of the mechanisms regulating cancer formation and progression, and to developing novel techniques to detect and treat cancer, all with the goal of providing better care for patients.
Gary Jean, PharmD, BCOP, answered our questions about the Feist-Weiller Cancer Center and the role of oncology pharmacists in patient care and research.
What approach does your institution take to treating people with cancer?
Gary Jean (GJ): LSU Health and Feist-Weiller Cancer Center engage in evidence-based medicine and multidisciplinary, translational cancer research; provide patients cutting-edge treatment with access to national cancer clinical trials; and educate both physicians and the community about the prevention, treatment, and the science of cancer.
How does that translate to better outcomes for your patients?
GJ: The Feist-Weiller Cancer Center team is committed to bringing lifesaving discoveries about cancer to all of Louisiana and beyond. Collaboration between cancer researchers and treating physicians fosters a more comprehensive understanding of cancer. Feist-Weiller Cancer Center faculty:
- Conduct laboratory and clinical research to discover better methods of preventing and treating cancer
- Provide adult and pediatric patients with state-of-the-art cancer care, regardless of their ability to pay
- Educate and train hematology/ oncology fellows, community physicians, and local residents about the most modern cancer treatments so all patients will receive the best possible cancer care
- Supply Louisiana communities with cancer screenings and education materials for prevention through Partners in Wellness, a unique community cancer screening program
What are you excited about right now in the field of oncology?
GJ: As a clinician, I am excited about the constantly changing aspect in the field of oncology. The evolution of cancer treatment provides a challenging and rewarding career in patient care. It is knowing that there is always going to be something new that keeps me enthusiastic about my work.
How has the role of the oncology pharmacist changed over the past 5 years?
GJ: As a relatively new practitioner, I have seen a change away from a dispensing model to one oriented more toward direct patient care. With so many new drugs and changes in the standard of care, pharmacists have to stay current to adequately take care of patients. Whether it’s verifying chemotherapy orders in clinic or making rounds on a medical oncology or bone marrow transplant service, every aspect of the patient has to be evaluated to ensure that patient care and safety come first.
What inspired you to become an oncology pharmacist?
GJ: I was first exposed to oncology in my second year of pharmacy school during a pharmacotherapy lecture. It was then that I became intrigued about the level of complexity involved in leukemia, specifically, and I quickly came to understand, in all malignancies. The complex nature of the different disease states and constantly changing treatment regimens drew me even closer. By the time I had my first “oncology” rotation in my third year of pharmacy school, I was hooked. Through the mentorship of my future program director, Sachin Shah, PharmD, BCOP, I took as many oncology-related rotations as I could and studied the field at every opportunity. As my experience grew, getting to know the people behind the diseases increased my love for the field. While the success rate for a potential cure isn’t as high as we all hope for, being able to provide care for our patients in such a difficult time in their lives is a privilege.
Any advice for pharmacists just entering the field?
GJ: There are a couple of things that I have noticed in my short tenure as an oncology pharmacist. Oncology is a field that you either love or hate. Regardless of the reason, if you choose the field of oncology, choose it for the right reason. In my opinion, being an oncology pharmacist requires a high level of commitment and caring for this population, because a simple mistake with these drugs could be catastrophic. The second piece of advice would be to never assume. We are human and are in no way perfect. If something doesn’t look right, a simple phone call can solve a lot of problems ahead of time.
What are some areas of focus at your institution?
GJ: Our population has continued to grow, even in the short time that I have been here. We are constantly engaged in physician-based and drug company– sponsored research. We are actively engaged in community outreach with cancer screening and prevention initiatives. In addition, we are actively involved in integrative medicine, which has taken patient care from being disease focused to being patient focused.