The Jefferson School of Pharmacy at Thomas Jefferson University was founded in 2008 and offers an innovative doctor of pharmacy program that prepares graduates for interesting and challenging pharmacy practice roles across the healthcare continuum. The faculty comprises accomplished and diverse healthcare leaders, teachers, researchers, and preceptors (practitioners). Collectively, this group offers a broad range of experiences and perspectives, and its members are recognized for leadership in national and international pharmacy and healthcare membership organizations as well as research in pharmaceutics, pharmacology, health outcomes, the clinical sciences, and related fields.
The classroom, laboratory, pharmacy- practice experiences, and extracurricular activities at the Jefferson School of Pharmacy are designed to produce competent and confident practitioners who apply their knowledge and skills to caring for individual patients as well as improving the overall health of the community.
The Jefferson School of Pharmacy benefits from an integral partnership with the Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, Department of Pharmacy Services. The Jefferson School of Pharmacy is part of a legacy of collaborative teaching, research, and service uniquely positioned to impact the health and well-being of the local community and the broader world.
The Oncology Pharmacist spoke with Ginah Nightingale, PharmD, BCOP, assistant professor, Department of Pharmacy Practice, Jefferson School of Pharmacy at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, about her job.
What are your job responsibilities at Jefferson?
Ginah Nightingale (GN): I have a full-time faculty appointment as assistant professor at the Jefferson School of Pharmacy. I serve as the course coordinator and the principal lecturer in our Clinical Diagnosis/Pharmacotherapy VI Oncology Module. I also precept professional year 3 (P3) and P4 students during their introductory and advanced pharmacy-practice experiences. My clinical practice sites are the Medical Oncology Inpatient Unit at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital (TJUH) and the ambulatory Senior Adult Oncology Center at TJUH.
What is your focus and research interest?
GN: I took the initiative to become more involved with oncology research with a focus on senior adult oncology and medication use, specifically, polypharmacy and potentially inappropriate medication use in this vulnerable population. My abstract, “The Prevalence of Polypharmacy (PP) and Potentially Inappropriate Medication (PIM) Use in Senior Adult Oncology (SAO) Patients at an Academic Medical Center,” was accepted as a platform presentation at the 2014 Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association (HOPA) Annual Conference. My study found that 41% of senior oncology patients seen at our center used at least 5 concurrent medications at the time of their initial visit and 43% of patients used 10 or more concurrent medications. Additionally, 51% of patients used a PIM, a medication that has the potential to increase the risk of adverse events in the elderly. The majority of patients in this cohort were 80 years of age or older with a mean comorbidity count of 7.69 (excluding the primary cancer).
These findings demonstrated that a pharmacist-led medication assessment identified a high prevalence of PP and PIM use compared to previously published literature, probably attributed to the fact that previous studies incorporated antiquated criteria for defining PP and PIM use and relied heavily on patient self-report/chart extraction versus a pharmacist-led assessment.
What is the biggest challenge in your current job?
GN: Balancing my work-related responsibilities/roles as faculty and lecturer in the didactic curriculum, experiential educator for students on pharmacy-practice experiences, and providing direct patient care clinical services, while at the same time trying to carve out adequate time for research/scholarly activities and active participation in professional organizations and institutional committee work.
What is your biggest reward professionally?
GN: I am most gratified when I see student pharmacists who are enthusiastic about a career in pharmacy and the contributions they can make to patients who will benefit from the pharmaceutical care provided by pharmacy school graduates. I love to see students involved in research and scholarly pursuits that offer students an opportunity to travel and present their research findings at professional meetings. Three Jefferson School of Pharmacy students were actively involved in collecting research data that they presented in 2013 at the student poster session of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) 48th Midyear Clinical Meeting and Exhibition in Orlando, Florida.
What led you to become an oncology pharmacist?
GN: As a pharmacy student, I did not have an interest in cancer or cancer research. The experiential education process at my pharmacy school required me to select a rotation in medical oncology, so I was placed at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey (and my preceptor was Susan Goodin, PharmD, BCOP, FCCP). This rotation was truly an unexpected life-changing experience. I had an opportunity to work closely with the inpatient medical oncology rounding team, and they involved me in the care of each patient right from the start. The attending physician and medical residents had a lot of questions about supportive care therapies, chemotherapy toxicity/side effect management, pain management, and infection control. My oncology rotation was truly a rewarding experience that fostered my interest in pursuing oncology pharmacy.
What advice would you give to new pharmacy students considering specializing in oncology?
GN: I would encourage students to join an oncology-based professional organization
such as HOPA and to participate on institutional committees (during experiential rotations) that focus on cancer care, like the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Oncology Committee, or the Medication Safety (Oncology) Committee. Participating on such committees is a great way to stay informed about emerging cancer research and new treatment regimens, clinical updates on cancer treatments, and new supportive care therapies, not to mention a great way to network and collaborate. In this way, students will be well positioned to participate in healthcare initiatives and clinical decision making that will have a direct and positive impact on cancer patient management.
If you won the lottery and didn’t
have to work anymore, what would you do?
GN: I am passionate about cancer care and research and I love to travel. I would want to travel the world and bring healthcare/cancer care aid and relief to countries across the globe. I would focus on improving healthcare/cancer care and advancing cancer care educational opportunities to underdeveloped countries across the world.