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Personal Impact and Growth Reflection - Representing HOPA on HOPA Hill Day

Jill Rhodes,
University of Louisville Hospital
James Graham Brown Cancer Center
Louisville, KY

On April 27, 2016, a sunny spring day in Washington, DC, I sat  in the cramped waiting area outside the office of Senator Rand Paul. The then-immediate past president of HOPA, Mike Vozniak, HOPA lobbyist Jeremy Scott, and I were patiently waiting our turn. It was #HOPAHillDay! My role was to represent HOPA members as HOPA Member-at-Large. Our day was packed with meetings with elected officials from Kentucky and Pennsylvania in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The purpose of HOPA Hill Day is to share with our elected representatives our perspectives on the contemporary issues affecting care for pa- tients with cancer and to illustrate the valuable role that hematol- ogy/oncology pharmacists play in healthcare delivery (as outlined in our  HOPA Health Policy Agenda.)

We were supporting three major bills during our meetings:

  • The Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhance- ment Act, also known as the provider status bill. This bill was reintroduced in January 2017 in the Senate as S. 109 (Chuck Grassley [R-IA], Sherrod Brown [D-OH], and Bob Casey [D-PA]) and in the House of Representatives as H.R. 592 (Brett Guthrie [KY-02], G. K. Butterfield [NC-01], Ron Kind [WI-03], and Tom Reed [NY-23]).
  • The Cancer Drug Coverage Parity Act of 2015 (H.R. 2739), also known as the oral chemotherapy parity bill. This bill was rein- troduced in March 2017 in the House as H.R. 1409 (Leonard Lance {R-NJ] and Brian Higgins [D-NY]).
  • The Patients’ Access to Treatments Act of 2015 (H. R. 1600), also referred to as the specialty-tier drugs act.

The day on the Hill was a golden opportunity to have the attention of the individuals entrusted with making decisions that affect our profession and the care of our patients, and it was truly exciting! We made the most of our 20 minutes, and (dare I say?) we even had fun. I am optimistic that our concerns did not fall on deaf ears and that we inspired some to represent the oncology pharmacy community and our patients’ needs by joining us in promoting efforts to enhance access to cancer care. Nonetheless, this wasn’t a one-and-done program. As individual pharmacists and as an organization, we in HOPA must persevere in our efforts and be persistent in advocating for our profession.

In reflecting on this particular advocacy activity and my overall experience on the HOPA board, I find myself inspired. My experiences have challenged me to seek a broader understanding

of our profession. For most of my professional life, the focus of my learning has been an unadulterated, naive pursuit of clinical knowledge. The number of competing agendas outside and inside our own profession, as well as those of other industry markets that influence our profession, other healthcare providers, buying groups, the pharmaceutical industry, managed care, our patients, and ultimately our ability to provide any pharmacy service, is massive. My own lack of a focused study of these outside influences—which have both afforded me the luxury of clinical practice and also threatened it—is a cause of great regret. I now have a better appreciation of the healthcare system and a healthier view of it. I am very grateful for the exposure HOPA has provided me as a volunteer and as a board member, opening my eyes to areas of needed growth. Being part of HOPA has had  a tremendous impact on my personal and professional growth. Along the way, I have been encouraged by the many amazingly talented individuals that make HOPA exceptional. It is a privilege to be able to represent our membership.