Skill, passion and teamwork. Essential elements for patient centered partnerships.
A variety of drugs are used to treat cancer. Delivered by infusions, injections, or taken orally, it takes a range of specially trained professionals working together to ensure that these pharmaceuticals are used safely and effectively so that patients achieve optimal clinical outcomes.
According to Stephanie Sabillon, CSPT, CPhT, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute (FCS) Associate Director of Pharmacy Operations, teamwork is essential for the multitude of tasks that are required to accomplish this.
“Our team shares a deep commitment to the mission of pharmacy operations,” says Stephanie. “We align ourselves to ensure the safest, most effective, and cost-sensitive use of pharmaceuticals while promoting safe practices for our patients.”
Oral oncolytics, targeted therapies taken in a pill form, are being used with increasing frequency to treat all forms of cancer.
Rx To Go, FCS’ centralized specialty pharmacy based in Fort Myers, Florida, has ready access to 99 percent of the available oral oncolytics, and can quickly dispense medications and supplies directly to patient homes. Rx To Go team members coordinate insurance claims and even make connections to financial assistance programs. But those are just the beginning steps of a vital partnership.
Patient interaction is key. Missed doses or improper handling can impact a medication’s efficacy, so it is especially important that specialty medications are taken correctly. FCS employs over 120 pharmacy technicians, and the Pharmacy Operations team that Stephanie supports focuses on educating pharmacy and nursing staff on pharmacy best practices and industry standards, onboarding and training, drug inventory management, minimizing financial shrinkage through replacement and reimbursement programs, and asset management, among other responsibilities.
Since Stephanie joined FCS in 2012 as a pharmacy technician in Altamonte Springs, she has had the opportunity to champion best practices and to help others at FCS advance in the pharmacy healthcare field.
In 2015, she participated in creating a training program and career advancement pathway for pharmacy technicians. She soon became a Regional Clinical Pharmacy Trainer and two years later was promoted to Pharmacy Operations Manager, overseeing FCS regional clinical pharmacy trainers across the state of Florida. She was promoted to Associate Director of Pharmacy Operations in 2021.
Stephanie’s passion for helping others excel just as she has is obvious. “I’ve been fortunate to have leaders who saw something in me and coached me to where I am today,” she said. “I enjoy having the opportunity to create a career ladder for others.”
An increasing number of Pharmacy team members are taking advantage of opportunities to advance their careers with FCS.
Kara Sammons, MSPharmReg, CPhT, RPhT, who began her career as a pharmacy technician nearly a decade ago, appreciates the support she has received at all levels to advance both professionally and financially. FCS’s Tuition Reimbursement Program enabled Kara to complete her master’s degree. “FCS and Rx To Go have continuously provided support for my career with opportunities that have allowed me to engage with my team and external partners and continue to grow,” she said.
In her current role as Associate Director of Pharmacy Services, Kara supports the One Pharmacy initiative, a collaboration with Rx To Go, Procurement, and Pharmacy Operations – sharing her passion and inspiring others to always do what’s right for each patient. “Today I am supporting patients by participating in interdepartmental meetings and initiatives to ensure we are providing premier customer service and support.” Her initiatives focus on sharing information to make the patient experience better.
Since joining FCS in 2015, Rebecca Garland, RPhT advanced swiftly from technician to supervisor and into her current role as Pharmacy Adherence Manager. Rebecca leads a team of pharmacy technicians who proactively identify potential barriers to successful therapy with oral oncolytics. She explains, “We engage patients in meaningful conversations about their therapy by covering topics such as: timeliness of refills, how they take their medication, reasons for missed doses, changes in quality of life, insurance/financial concerns, and the importance of adhering to therapy.”
Rebecca is extremely proud of her work to build Rx To Go’s adherence program, which has been adopted by many community oncology practices around the nation.
The success stories continue to multiply. Stephanie says, “What we have at FCS is rarely seen in other settings.”
Pharmacy professionals are currently in very high demand and the need is expected to grow, driven by the steady advancements in treatment medications and an aging population that typically uses more healthcare services over time.
Based on their experiences, Kara and Rebecca regularly encourage others to apply for positions at FCS. “This is the first company I ever worked for where I felt they valued the quality of patient care over budgets,” Rebecca said.
Kara notes that ongoing advancements in the pharmacy field are holding great promise for cancer treatment and opportunities for meaningful career opportunities. “It’s a fast-moving field that’s constantly evolving,” Kara said.
Stephanie is especially intrigued with the potential for personalized medicine. “Our genes can now give physicians a better idea about which treatment will help the most,” she notes, “and some of these drugs are specifically targeted to fight these cancers from the inside of the cell.”
“I’m most excited about all of the new targeted therapies which continue to get approved by the FDA for the treatment of cancer,” adds Rebecca. “I feel these targeted therapies are the key to providing the best possible outcomes for our patients by reducing side effects, improving quality of life, and removing cancer cells more efficiently.”
This Rx To Go trio looks ahead eagerly to the future. Kara sums it up, “As a team, we have many people involved in ensuring that the future of the oncology patient experience is realistic and positive, and I am glad to be a part of this.”