Brad Burton is a highly accomplished and dedicated Board-Certified Oncology Pharmacist (BCOP) known for his significant contributions to the field. His journey in pharmacy began in retail pharmacy with inspiration from a family member, and he has since become a prominent figure in oncology pharmacy having practiced in the clinical setting for several years. Brad pursued his studies at the renowned University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he gained a solid understanding of the intricacies of the field. Over the years, he has actively engaged in professional organizations, including the Hematology Oncology Pharmacy Association (HOPA) and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, to stay connected with industry trends and collaborate with fellow experts. Brad’s commitment to continuous professional development is evident through his board certification in oncology pharmacy and various additional certifications. With over ten notable publications, he is recognized for his research and insights, positively impacting patient outcomes. Moreover, the esteemed Johns Hopkins Hospital Pharmacy Residency Class Preceptor of the Year award honored his exceptional mentoring abilities. Throughout his career, Brad Burton’s unwavering dedication and extensive knowledge have led him to make significant contributions to oncology pharmacy, advancing patient care and the practice of the field.
How did you get started in this career?
My parents were first generation college graduates, and they instilled the importance of education at a very young age. Growing up in a small industrial, blue-collar town, which at the time was also quite rural, I had relatively little knowledge on activities and programs which would translate to a competitive college admissions application and offer exposure to careers in STEM. It wasn’t until after my freshman year in high school that I went against my guidance counselors’ advice, pursued accelerated coursework, and developed my own pathway upon which I noticed my aptitude for math and sciences and interest in extracurriculars. My aunt worked as a pharmacy technician at the time, and I always loved observing the relationships with her team members and patients and found that this may be a field I would be interested in as a career. By the time I finished high school, I narrowed my career options to pharmacy, medicine, and teaching (the latter of which was inspired by my mother). I chose pharmacy as I was always so amazed by medications and how they work, but also how I could help so many people understand more about these products and how they have the potential to be life-saving. In pharmacy school, I became interested in the field of hematology and oncology, and pursued additional training upon graduation. The thing about this specialty that I found so intriguing was the complexity of medications and how the important role that pharmacists play in terms of education, but also pairing with interdisciplinary team members to balance management of the other chronic conditions patients may be experiencing in the face of cancer. I’m so glad I traveled down this career path, and I have no regrets.
When you were starting, did you ever doubt it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
Of course! Between late nights, challenging assignments, and rigorous patient care and clinical practice based deliverables, there were times where I questioned things. I attribute my success to a wonderful support system within each step of my career that has offered wonderful wisdom, encouragement, and advice. In any moments of doubt, my unwavering passion for helping people understand medications, and later, helping those with cancer, always motivated me to keep pushing forward, even during the most challenging of times.
Do you remember how you got your first job?
Interestingly, I landed my first job in my early teens as the neighborhood lawnmower! My brother and I created flyers and offered to mow lawns for our neighbors for $20 each. I think this lasted only one summer after we decided that bopping around town in the summer heat was much more enjoyable than yard work under the same conditions. Now for the “big boy” job, I actively searched for job opportunities in hematology and oncology pharmacy that would offer a wealth of clinical practice, educational, and research experiences. I attended national pharmacy conferences in order to network with others at the institutions in which I was interested, and prepared and submitted my curriculum vitae and cover letters to my top choices. After interviewing with those insitutions, I landed my role as a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist in Medical Oncology at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. This role was a crucial stepping stone in my career and allowed me to embark on my journey of making meaningful contributions to patient care, education, and research in oncology.
What is the most challenging decision you’ve had to make professionally?
When I worked in the clinical practice setting, it was difficult, but necessary to assist the team with medication therapy recommendations which would shift the patient care approach from one that was more curative towards a palliative approach. The silver lining in these situations was that I was able to offer patients and caregivers hope through recommend medications which would offer symptom relief, and working with physicians to thoughtfully de-prescribe medications for which patients may no longer be receiving any therapeutic benefit.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Every moment presents a new opportunity. Don’t get bogged down by a bad day, a bad week, a bad month, or even a bad year. Life always presents new opportunities, so take the negatives and learn for tome as they’ll help you prepare for and embrace the good.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I think that the possessing the characteristics of resilience and determination have served me well throughout life. Life, whether it be personal or professional, ALWAYS throws curve balls. I’ve learned that it’s so important not to give up every time this happens, but to take the moment and opportunity in stride and work through the difficulty. Again, it is so important to have a strong and trusted support system, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention them as another pillar of my success.
What has been the most satisfying moment in your field?
The two most satisfying moments are:
- The ability to make a difference in a patient’s life. It is truly an honor and a privilege to see a patient who may have been diagnosed with cancer and feeling hopeless get treated and ultimately have a successful outcome. Witnessing that patient’s joy and gratitude is truly an unforgettable moment that is worth more than just words can describe. Being able to help someone in their journey to conquer cancer is what makes my work worthwhile.
- Teaching oncology pharmacy learners. I love educating pharmacy learners about oncology pharmacotherapy, cancer, and supportive care. As it is quite complex, I use a variety of tools and techniques to simplify the material so that it is digestible. I also drive home the fact that oncology pharmacotherapy is important for pharmacist, even if their career plans aren’t strictly hematology or oncology pharmacy focused. It is so fulfilling to watch learners grow and learn. It has always been a huge motivator for me. Moreover, the learning goes both ways, as learners often teach me new things as well.
What does the future hold for your career? What are you most excited about?
Career-wise, I feel that the future is a clean slate once again, and that makes me very excited! I switched careers about a year and a half ago from the oncology pharmacy inpatient hospital setting to a role as an oncology pharmacovigilance scientist for a pharmaceutical company. Here, I feel that I’m really in the early stages of mastering and solidifying my craft in pharmacovigilance, and this will be my focus for the time being. Generally, I’ve seen so many changes throughout my career and unlimited potential to further advance oncology pharmacy practice through cutting-edge research and innovative treatments. Oncology pharmacists have infiltrated countless traditional and nontraditional practice areas, from managed care, to clinical pathways roles, and even prescribing roles in jurisdictions that allow it. I anticipate that this will continue to grow and evolve, certainly in view of new therapies being approved at breakneck speed. I consider myself blessed to have such intimate involvement in these industry advancements, and I look forward to what the future holds.
Are you willing to be a mentor?
I’d be willing to offer mentorship and guidance in my field of expertise, oncology pharmacy, as well as in oncology pharmacovigilance. I’m truly passionate about helping aspiring pharmacists and fellow professionals navigate the complexities of the field, providing insights on career development, and sharing experiences to support their growth. If you have any questions or need advice, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’ll be more than happy to assist you in any way I can! Let’s connect and work together to positively impact the world of oncology!