Skip to main content

Cancer Pharmacists Do More Than Fill Prescriptions

Douglas Sborov, Mary Steinbach, and Kelley Julian
Douglas Sborov, MD, Mary Steinbach, APRN, and Kelley Julian, PharmD discuss a patient’s treatment at HCI.

Many pharmacy patrons shake their heads when asked, "Do you have any questions with this medication?"

But for patients at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI), the answer is rarely so simple. "Counseling patients on new treatment regimens is a perk of my job," says HCI hematology and oncology clinical specialist Kelley Julian, PharmD. "We help put them at ease by discussing potential side effects and how to try to prevent them."

Pharmacists at HCI work with large teams of health care professionals to provide the best patient care, explains HCI clinical pharmacist Erik Harrington, PharmD, MS. These multidisciplinary teams include physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, transplant coordinators, social workers, medical assistants, schedulers, and more.

pharmacists in a lab

"Everyone works together to ensure the patient comes first and receives the best overall care," explains HCI clinical pharmacist Melissa Webb, RPh. "The University of Utah and HCI are places of learning," Erik adds.

Putting the patient first also means the HCI pharmacy team works with cutting-edge research and technologies.

"Oncology is in the golden age of discovery with immunotherapy, small-molecule targeted therapy, and techniques such as CAR T." Erik says. "I've seen patients in tears of joy and disbelief when they found out we are able to provide a therapy they did not think they could get."

Melissa, who works in investigational drug services, describes how fulfilling it is to provide what may be the last hope for a patient who has no other treatment options. She and her team work with new and developing drugs.

And despite COVID-19, the pharmacy team—like teams across HCI and University of Utah Health—have found ways to keep going. "The realization that has kept me motivated during these trying times is the simple fact that cancer doesn't stop," Kelley says. "Patients are relying on us to offer extra support. They often receive complex care without family members joining their visits. The community we have created provides them with that extra sense of security, which is ultimately very rewarding."

pharmacist inspecting lab materials

Cancer touches all of us.