After interviewing at several pharmacy schools, Joseph A. Kalis ’12 chose Shenandoah University’s Bernard J. Dunn School of Pharmacy (BJDSOP) because of its family-style, collegial atmosphere. “Even during the interview, the interview team of Dr. Mikhail Arthur and Dr. Marcia Brackbill genuinely cared about my future and what was best for me in pharmacy – that sealed the deal,” said Kalis. “You won’t find another set of caring, supportive, friendly faculty as you will at the BJDSOP!”
Kalis’ fondest memories of Shenandoah are the lifelong friendships he made with his classmates and the faculty members that helped mold him into the person he is today. He and his close friends still communicate on a daily basis through a group chat they formed as students on campus. “I recall being in the BJDSOP orientation and talking with some classmates who would become close friends, and realizing ‘I’m not the only one who’s wired like this – I am in the right place’,”said Kalis.
Kalis is an ambulatory oncology clinical pharmacist at UCHealth Hematology Clinic in Aurora, Colorado. In this position, he sees patients for educational visits to teach them about their upcoming treatments, whether it be chemotherapy, immunotherapy or an oral oncolytic. Kalis also reviews treatment plans, recommended dose adjustments to chemotherapy and assists with supportive care (pain management, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, anorexia, etc). In addition to these job responsibilities, he is helping develop a pharmacist-run “Supportive Care Clinic”, where patients could be evaluated by him or his partner, rather than going to the emergency department.
Outside of being a pharmacist, Kalis gives back to the pharmacy community by serving as a preceptor to PGY1 and PGY2 residents at UC Health. He has also collaborated with various colleagues on several peer reviewed papers, is a faculty member of the Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association’s Oncology Core Competency Certificate Program, and developed and delivered numerous continuing education programs, articles and podcasts. Some of the continuing education programs presented include, Leveraging Managed Care to Increase Access to B-Cell Maturation Antigen (BCMA)-Directed Treatment and Equitable Care in Multiple Myeloma,Understanding the Role of BCMA-Directed Therapy in the Management of Relapsed/Refractory Multiple Myeloma, An American Journal of Managed-Care Forum: Managed Care Insights on Optimizing the Use of BCMA-Targeted Treatments in Multiple Myeloma, Bispecific Antibody Therapy (BsAbs): A New Path Forward in the Treatment of Relapsed/Refractory Multiple Myeloma, Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia: Optimizing Patient Care Through Expert Knowledge of Drug Therapies and Treatment-Related Toxicities, Updates and the Managed Care Considerations for BCMA-targeted Strategies in Multiple Myeloma and many more.
“Oncology is a rapidly growing field, so there’s a large need for pharmacist-focused education to help folks keep up with new medications, treatment algorithms, and guideline updates,” said Kalis. “I take a lighthearted, collegial approach to teaching to help learners stay engaged and recall information when they need it.”
The most rewarding part of Kalis’ career is working with his patients and sharing his knowledge of oncology and chemotherapy with them in a way that makes sense. One experience that sticks out to him was during his first pharmacy position in 2014. A patient had started a complex treatment regimen for acute leukemia, but wasn’t sure if they could continue their chemotherapy at his hospital (continuing treatment at Kalis’ hospital would save them a four hour drive). To help this patient, Kalis used all his knowledge, experiences and training to collaborate with the different departments in the hospital to ensure they could receive the intrathecal chemotherapy they needed in order to stay at his hospital. And, the rest was history.
“We became friends, and I learned much about life and living from her,” said Kalis. “She ended up making my son a Roy Rogers-themed baby quilt after he was born, successfully making me cry in the exam room. I think of her often – rest in peace, Fred.”
Kalis believes that his Shenandoah education prepared him for his career by not only providing him with a great education in pharmacy, but also in the importance of humanity and connection in healthcare. “I would certainly not be where I am today without the start I had at the BJDSOP and the caring guidance of faculty such as Dr. Jeremy Fox, Dr. Mark Johnson, Dr. Doug Smith and Dr. David Newton, among others,” said Kalis. “Having a great education in your field is merely the beginning – having the shared wisdom of a tribe of mentors brings that education to life and helps it to change the world.”
Kalis’ advice to students is: “To keep an open mind about what their pharmacy career can be, and in what area of pharmacy they’ll practice. At first I thought I’d practice in infectious disease or critical care, before being exposed to oncology on one of my P4 rotations. Approach each learning experience with fresh eyes and soak up as much experience as you can – both academic and practical!”