R. Donald Harvey, PharmD BCOP FCCP FHOPA, was the winner of the 2018 HOPA Award of Excellence. This award, first given in 2005, recognizes a member who has made a significant and sustained contribution to improving or supporting hematology/oncology pharmacy or has given excellent leadership in that area. The award winners receive a lifetime membership in HOPA and are recognized at an awards ceremony at HOPA’s annual conference and given a platform presentation regarding their contributions. Dr. Harvey is an associate professor of hematology/medical oncology and pharmacology at Emory University School of Medicine. The developer of the Phase I Program at Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute, he currently directs the Clinical Trials Section of that program.
During his first position at the University of North Carolina, Dr. Harvey developed one of the first anticoagulation services for hematology/oncology patients. He is a national and international speaker and served as the president of HOPA from 2010 to 2013. He has led several HOPA initiatives, served on a number of committees, and been a strong advocate for hematology/oncology pharmacists in research.
In a November 2018 interview, he spoke about his career and what the HOPA Award of Excellence has meant to him.
Please describe your clinical practice setting and your research program.
I serve as the director of the Phase I Clinical Trials Section and Unit at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. The director’s office adjoins the unit, and I see patients enrolled in clinical trials on a daily basis. Our center enrolls approximately 250 patients in early-phase protocols annually, and, in conjunction with superb advanced practice providers and physician colleagues, we take care of them during all parts of their cancer treatment and supportive care while on trial. My research program is focused on the use of clinical pharmacology concepts and tools to improve treatment across all cancer types and phases of drug development. Some examples have been our collaborations on abiraterone dosing with food to improve pharmacokinetics and reduce costs, an ongoing intranasal ketamine bioavailability trial in opioid-refractory cancer pain, and predictive biomarkers of response to novel immunotherapeutics. I oversee a research team of 11 members, and we are moving to a new phase I unit space in January 2019, tripling in size and adding patient views of downtown Atlanta. It’s been an incredibly humbling and exciting time since I joined the Emory staff in 2007.
How long have you been a member of HOPA, and how have you been involved?
I joined HOPA in late 2004, began on the Education and Standards Committee, and have served as a member or chair of six committees or task forces, with a focus on research activities. I served on the board of directors as president from 2010 to 2013 and am on the Recognition Committee this year. I have been fortunate to speak regularly at the annual conference and to serve as an abstract reviewer and poster award judge. HOPA is and always will be my primary organizational home, and I will work to help make it the best organization for oncology pharmacists to call their own.
What would you define as keys to your success?
I try to look at all situations and people with an open mind and to surround myself with colleagues who are smarter than I am, to ensure that I am a lifelong learner. My professional goals are always patient focused, and I am driven by curiosity and a willingness to fail. I have a very supportive family, which also keeps me grounded. And there’s coffee.
Who was your mentor, and how did that person influence your career path?
Celeste Lindley was the first person who opened my eyes to the world of hematology/oncology pharmacy and where it could take me. She was a tireless mentor who taught me critical thinking skills. She also taught me that depth is more important than breadth and that we have to be the drug experts in the room of oncology. I learned a lack of boundaries from Dr. Lindley and since then have perpetually refused to stay in my professional lane.
What does winning the HOPA Award of Excellence mean to you personally?
The award is a pure reflection of the people around me who have influenced me, knowingly or unknowingly. I share the award with many of the giants of hematology/oncology pharmacy, and I am proud and humbled to be in their company.
What is one of the proudest moments of your career?
My proudest moments have come when someone I mentor has a “wow” moment. It may be understanding a new concept, getting an abstract or paper accepted, deciding on a research hypothesis, or selecting a career path. The ability to help others learn and grow has always been a top priority for me, partly because of the power of these moments.
Oncology pharmacists can have a profound influence on their patients and trainees. What would you like your patients, trainees, and colleagues to know about you?
I would like everyone to know these three things: (1) We have to continually place patients at the center of all that we do, and I have attempted to base my entire career on this concept; (2) I never thought I would be doing what I’m doing—any career path is likely to be circuitous rather than direct; and (3) I firmly believe in and live by a work-hard, play-hard philosophy—cancer has taught me to be the best father, husband, friend, clinician-researcher, and teacher today, not tomorrow. Work-life balance doesn’t mean you work less. It means you give your all every day to the things that matter most.
What advice would you offer to other oncology pharmacists who are either just beginning their career or expanding their role in patient care?
I would say this: Don’t be afraid of hard work, of being uncomfortable, or of being wrong. Growth happens only in these three areas. If you find yourself overly comfortable, boredom, followed by dissatisfaction, is likely to ensue.
Lisa Cordes, PharmD BCOP BCACP
Oncology Clinical Pharmacy Specialist and Educator
National Cancer Institute
Kasey Jackson, PharmD BCOP
Clinical Pharmacist Specialist, Hematology/Oncology
Medical University of South Carolina Hollings Cancer Center