What does an inpatient pharmacist do?

Each day nearly 200 pharmacists around MD Anderson dispense an average of 23,000 drug doses. That’s 8.4 million doses a year, one of the highest volumes of any cancer care center in the U.S. Inpatients receiving cancer treatment receive the vast majority of that medication – almost 7 million doses a year. And that’s a challenge that requires the expertise of top-notch pharmacists. Expertise and experience required MD Anderson treats more than 400 types of cancer, and many cases are highly complex, so expertise in rare cancers and the complications of treatment is critical. As inpatient pharmacists on our Central Pharmacy team, Mariamma (Leni) Varghese, Pharm.D., and Ifeoma Okafor, Pharm.D., have that expertise and are experienced collaborators as well. Okafor and Varghese, who rotate on surgical floors, interact with physicians and advanced practice providers like physician assistants every day. Their combined knowledge of drug interactions and specific drugs for specific conditions reduces the potential for errors. Even so, as an MD Anderson pharmacist for 19 years, Okafor appreciates the backstop of new technology that can draw attention to mistakes before they happen. “We’re grateful for our electronic health record system,’’ she says. “The new system flags issues regarding dosage, drug interactions and drug allergies.” There’s another set of eyes locked on to each prescription as well. Pharmacists and technicians in Central Pharmacy on the first floor of the hospital are working to ensure that medications are safely prepared, checked and delivered to the floors above. The inpatient pharmacists see themselves as collaborators with patients, too. Varghese, who began her pharmacy career in the drug industry, came to MD Anderson...