October 13, 2021 Matthew Lynch

A Pharmacist’s Oncology Journey

Kevin Poel, a Clinical Pharmacist at Shields Health Solutions, was a freshman in college in New Mexico, playing on the soccer team, when he got an unusual call from his mother and father.

“For them to call together was a little rare… and she was crying,” Kevin said.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer. Further testing revealed that it was stage 4. His mother underwent aggressive chemotherapy while receiving a full mastectomy and hysterectomy.

“It was really hard watching her go through that,” Kevin said. “I had never seen my mom so vulnerable. She was shuffling around the house like an old lady, and she wasn’t an old lady.”

Despite the challenging process, the treatment worked, and his mom was in remission. However, 13 years later, the cancer returned, and this time it metastasized to her bones and liver. She didn’t want to go through chemotherapy again and instead opted for oral medications.

But those stopped working, and then it became a game of switching agents to prevent the spread. In the meantime, she moved to Colorado to help with her new grandson and established additional care in the area along with the care she was already receiving at home in New Mexico.

Working with a pair of oncologists in two different locations was difficult though, and the need for a specialized service, like the one at Shields Health Solutions, became very obvious.

“It got a little confusing for all of us,” Kevin said. “Being in healthcare as a pharmacist, I was trying to read and educate myself on side effects and helping her out the best I could. It’s different when you don’t live that world. You can read a book, but what is reality? When a side effect has an incidence rate of 15%, what does that mean for your mom?”

“She didn’t have a single hub or a person that she could speak with to give her guidance on all these things, and I always felt bad about that because I didn’t know this stuff inside and out like I did emergency medicine,” he continued. “I just didn’t have the resources at the time.”

Kevin’s mother, unfortunately, lost her battle with breast cancer in June 2020.

Not long after that, Kevin wanted to spend more time with his expanding family and decided to make a change professionally. He joined Shields in October 2020 as a Clinical Pharmacist.

“I came into this role, and one of my first patients was on Ibrance, which was the last medication my mother was on,” Kevin said. “I was doing all this research and talking to this patient, knowing that my mom would have benefitted from this service so much.”

That service is the integrated, high-touch care model that utilizes Pharmacy Liaisons and Clinical Pharmacists, like Kevin, to assist patients through their care journey. They proactively approach patients with chronic conditions who need therapy assistance and then guide them the entire way, providing insights and answers whenever needed.

Kevin is working with an oncology patient now who has had concerns about their medication.

“I gave this patient my direct number,” Kevin said. “The patient asked when they call this number who they should ask for. I told them that when they call this number, they are calling my desk. So it will be me.”

This patient is taking a medication but is concerned about the high blood pressure they see as a side effect. They also wanted to get the COVID-19 vaccine, so they discontinued treatment on their own to receive it, then restarted therapy without consulting a physician or Kevin.

“We had a good conversation about involving your medical team when making decisions like that,” Kevin said. “The patient is a part of that decision, but they should include us, and I reiterated that is the reason I am here.”

And Kevin believes the reason he is at Shields is to help people like his mom and the countless others who can benefit from the Shields care model.

“This role has been very meaningful to me,” Kevin said. “I wish she had this, but I know she’s looking down, happy that I am helping other people.”

To learn more about the Shields care model, please visit shieldsrx.com.