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Firstborn Turned 18: The Twin Cities Oncology Journal Club

Becky Fahrenbruch, PharmD BCOP FHOPA
Medical Science Liaison, Myeloid Hematology
Bristol Myers Squibb
Maple Grove, MN

In the fall of 2001, I successfully completed the second of my two postdoctoral residencies—they were in pharmacy practice and specialty hematology/oncology—and moved to Minnesota to start my first job as oncology clinical coordinator at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. As a young and ambitious pharmacist in the oncology/hematology field, I looked for many ways to get involved and make an impact in the profession. Luckily, I met Pam Jacobson, PharmD FCCP, a distinguished professor and associate department head in the department of experimental and clinical pharmacology at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy (COP). We worked collaboratively on the idea of an oncology journal club (OJC) and began to co-coordinate this meeting.

Our goals were simple: to get pharmacists interested in oncology/hematology together for a journal club and foster an environment for networking and education. Our first meeting was held on January 10, 2002. We had 17 pharmacists and 6 pharmaceutical company representatives in attendance and discussed a review titled “Epoetin Alfa Therapy Increases Hemoglobin Levels and Improves Quality of Life in Patients with Cancer-Related Anemia Who Are Not Receiving Chemotherapy and Patients with Anemia Who Are Receiving Chemotherapy.” Wow, have times changed! To date, we have had 108 journal club meetings and average around 70 attendees at each meeting.

OJC, an evening dinner program, begins in January and occurs in alternate months throughout the year. The program consists of a 30-minute presentation by a speaker or program representative from a pharmaceutical company, followed by 10 minutes for questions, and then a 60-minute presentation developed for pharmacists’ continuing education (CE). A pharmaceutical company sponsor provides the educational speaker and the meal. The location of the meeting rotates among Minneapolis, St. Paul, and other suburbs in the Twin Cities area.

Attendees are pharmacists, University of Minnesota COP students, residents, drug representatives, and medical science liaisons. For the past 5 years, 1 hour of CE credit has been available for pharmacists via this program through the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy. We are very fortunate to have a wide variety of speakers, including pharmacists, pharmacy residents (postgraduate year-1 and year-2 [PGY-1 and PGY-2]), University of Minnesota COP students, and industry speakers (doctors, medical science liaisons, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, etc.). Without our volunteer CE speakers and industry support, OJC would not be sustainable.

Over the past 18 years, topics across a wide range have been discussed at OJC, and varying formats have been used:

  • Overview of practice sites (patient population, number of beds/chairs, staffing, etc.)
  • “How We Do It” discussions (on topics like febrile neutropenia, nausea and vomiting, and mucositis)
  • Clinical Pearls articles from HOPA News
  • New drug updates
  • Case studies
  • Disease overviews
  • Major projects conducted by PGY-1 and PGY-2 residents
  • Pharmaceutical company presentations ranging from supportive care to unbranded disease education.

With such a longstanding program, change was inevitable. OJC was established with pharmaceutical company education grants, and an industry speaker was not required. This quickly changed when the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) Code on Interaction with Health Care Professionals was implemented in January 2009. OJC adapted its programming to the requirements of speakers from drug companies. In 2016, we began using Google to create a Gmail account, update contact lists, and create Google Forms to streamline the RSVP process. Beginning in 2020, OJC will be coordinated through the Upper Midwest Oncology Education Network (UMOEN), with the current board working on programming and CE credits. UMOEN may be considered my first-born grandchild, because it was born out of OJC. But that’s a story for another day, and honestly, I am far too young to be a grandmother! Luckily, I am on the board of UMOEN and will continue to be involved in this endeavor.

I have learned many things since starting OJC. First, surveys sent to the participants asking for topics of interest and suggestions of volunteers to speak at future meetings has helped ensure the longevity of OJC. Using a wide variety of speakers and choosing discussion topics from across various disease states in inpatient and outpatient practice help engage our diverse audience of pharmacy professionals. Every pharmaceutical company has different regulations, so establishing guidelines upfront can help prevent any issues arising with industry sponsorship and speaker roles. On the practical side, keeping people informed about upcoming dates so they can request certain work shifts has allowed more pharmacists to attend. And holding our meetings in a great location with easy parking has been helpful for an after-work evening program.

Finally, having more than one person involved in the planning of OJC has allowed us to continue to provide this education in Minnesota. I would like to thank Pam Jacobson, PharmD FCCP, and past OJC CE education coordinator Sara Smith, PharmD BCOP, of University of Minnesota Health for all their help. As they say, it takes a village.

Last September I presented on the Twin Cities OJC at HOPA Practice Management during the Practice Management Pearls session. Shortly afterward, I received a LinkedIn tag post from Sarah Francis, PharmD BCOP, thanking me for the presentation. Hearing about our OJC motivated Dr. Francis and her colleagues to schedule the first South Florida Oncology Pharmacy Journal Club! I was honored and happy to have helped start another OJC in the United States.

I have two children, ages 12 and 14, but my professional firstborn is OJC! I may be a bit biased, but I believe this is the oldest and largest specialty pharmacy OJC in the nation. I am so proud of having been able to provide oncology/hematology education in Minnesota for the past 18 years. The journal club has allowed for the flourishing of a fantastic professional networking group of pharmacists, students, residents, and industry representatives.

If you are interested in starting an OJC in your area, please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any questions.