The Virginia K. Crosson Cancer Center is part of the larger St. Jude Crosson Comprehensive Cancer Center. The Virginia K. Crosson Cancer Center operates under the umbrella of the St. Joseph’s Healthcare System, which is located in Southern California. Within the Virginia K. Crosson Cancer Center, board-certified medical oncologists and hematologists practice medicine, and are devoted to offering lifesaving, life-changing cancer care.
Well-trained cancer experts combine their medical practice with advanced infusion capabilities providing patients with ongoing research and the latest breakthroughs in biotherapy, chemotherapy, and immunology. As part of St. Jude Medical Center’s comprehensive cancer services, Virginia K. Crosson Cancer Center offers patients advanced diagnostic and treatment options, including the latest improvements in radiation therapy and innovative surgical techniques.
The combined expertise of St. Jude Heritage Medical Group and St. Jude Medical Center provides quality care and supports patients through the entire cancer journey, including the opportunity to participate in clinical trials and multidisciplinary reviews of each cancer case, and receive emotional and spiritual support.
The Oncology Pharmacist spoke with Hi (Jenny) An, PharmD, Pharmacy Supervisor at the Virginia K. Crosson Cancer Center, St. Joseph’s Healthcare System, in Fullerton, CA.
Tell me about your job responsibilities.
Jenny An (JA): I am the pharmacy supervisor at an outpatient cancer center. We have 3 full-time pharmacists, including myself.
My responsibilities are broad and include staffing, training, competence, and scheduling, as well as compliance with regulations, including, but not limited to, US Pharmacopeial Convention General Chapter 797. The scope of my job involves filling prescriptions, entering orders electronically, checking the final products, and making sure the right patient gets the right medication.
Also, our cancer center is one of the study sites of the TORI (Translational Oncology Research International) network and St. Jude Clinical Trials. Our pharmacy compounds clinical trial medications for all of the study patients, and we currently have more than 40 trials open at our site.
What are the biggest challenges you face?
JA: I am always multitasking; involved in patient counseling, teaching, and clinical trials.
My biggest challenge is having enough time to fulfill all my jobs. Since I took this job, it has expanded because I took on more responsibility. I believe pharmacists can do more for patients for example, patient counseling.
The regulatory environment in the state of California is also changing, and we have increasing requirements that take up our time. For example, now we need a compound license, whereas we didn’t need this in the past, and this involves more paperwork and more record keeping.
What are your biggest rewards?
JA: My biggest rewards come from being involved with my patients and talking to them.
Ultimately, my job is about patient service, and providing quality service to our patients. Also, there are so many new cancer therapies in the pipeline and newly approved oncology medications that I need to keep up with. It’s challenging, but at the same time, it forces me to learn and I consider that one of the biggest rewards of being an oncology pharmacist in an ever-evolving healthcare environment.
How did you get into this field?
JA: My first job after pharmacy school was working at CVS Health, a large retail pharmacy. I didn’t like it. Fortunately, I was able to get a job at the Winship Cancer Institute, which is part of Emory University in Atlanta, GA.
I was lucky to get that job, and from the minute I started, I loved it. Then my husband got a job in El Segundo, CA, and we had to move from Georgia. My passion was to find a job at a cancer center. It wasn’t easy, but I found the job I was looking for. My previous experience at Winship made me an excellent candidate, and I felt like the job was tailor-made for me.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to become an oncology pharmacist?
JA: If you are a pharmacy student, try to get a rotation clerkship at a cancer center and see if you like it. Not everyone likes working at a cancer center, but then again, not everyone gets exposed to this environment during training. Find what you like to do, not what you have to do. We all work hard but you can’t beat having a job that you enjoy doing.
If you are already a pharmacist, you would need to have an oncology residency. It is now much harder to get a job as an oncology pharmacist. The field is much more crowded than it was when I became a pharmacist. There is an oversupply for the demand.
What would you do if you won the lottery?
JA: I was an art major in college, and I always felt that experience was unfinished, so I would go to art school and learn something new.