Austin Starkey

Austin Starkey, PharmD, MBA, is a Concordia University Wisconsin School of Pharmacy Alumni. Since his graduation, Austin has taken a role as Manager of Clinical Initiatives at NCODA (National Community Oncology Dispensing Association). While at Concordia, Austin found the specialty he was passionate about and it helped determine his career path.

Why did you decide to become a pharmacist?

I’ve always had the goal to work within the healthcare field. Growing up I was mostly figuring out exactly what I wanted to do in the field. In middle school, I took a chemistry class that got me hooked on pharmacy.

Then it really hit me how a single molecule can influence and impact our bodies so much. Molecules could be both beneficial and harmful depending on the amount. I wanted to learn as much about pharmacy as possible and pursuing a PharmD would allow me to do that.

How did your experience at Concordia influence your interest in oncology pharmacy?

During school, I became involved in organizations and classes that allowed me to learn as much as I could about those roles. Part of my experience at CUWSOP was founding the IPhO (Industry Pharmacists Organization) chapter and helping to educate other classmates about different roles within the industry. Additionally, I took classes geared toward the industry side such as the Big Pharma elective course.

We all know someone who has been affected by cancer. As far as my interest in oncology, that did not develop until my fourth year APPEs. I wanted to challenge myself and take an oncology elective. Since oncology was taught so late in our 3rd year it was hard to really develop an appreciation for it. I realized that I could apply everything I learned throughout my program in this disease state.

Working in oncology truly allows me to practice at the top of my license. I couldn’t be happier as I absolutely fell in love with the field. It is one of the few places where patients truly take every word you say to heart. If a recommendation is made, they listen and follow through with it.

What is NCODA and what do they do in healthcare?

NCODA is a grassroots, not-for-profit organization with a commitment to developing unique resources to help medically integrated oncology teams deliver top-tier care. We create educational resources for oral and IV anti-cancer therapies. Whether it’s through thoughtful community-building networking at our annual events or utilizing our complimentary suite of tools, we’re here to deliver quality and sustainable value to all stakeholders involved in cancer care.

What is your current role at NCODA?

My current role at NCODA is Manager of Clinical Initiatives. In my role, I get to collaborate with a variety of different stakeholders ranging from clinical practice members, pharmacy students, and industry sponsors. A lot of my initiatives and day-to-day tasks focus on some of our real-world evidence data initiatives and help to develop educational resources for both patients and providers.

How were you initially exposed to opportunities at NCODA and what about the organization impressed you most?

I came across NCODA during my APPE rotations. While completing an oncology elective, I used NCODA’s Oral Chemotherapy Education resources to help me educate patients about their new oncology medications. The thing that I was most impressed with about the organization was the culture. Everything they do is unique and done in a way that is not traditionally seen.

All NCODA membership and most resources are offered complimentary, which as an organization is almost unheard of. After interviewing with a few team members, I could tell right away that the organization is truly there to support and better the field of oncology. It was very evident that they were a patient-centered organization.

What has been the most memorable moment of working as a pharmacist?

The most memorable moment for me has been the ability to give back. I’m currently in the position to take on APPE students for myself and to help shape their future. I’m able to provide resources that touch so many more lives than I could as an individual in a more traditional setting.

I have the opportunity to create healthcare resources and publish articles that are seen by thousands of people across the nation and even the world. I recently published an article about the Financial Impact of Medically Integrated Pharmacy interventions on Oral Oncolytic Prescriptions.

It’s crazy to think that I grew up in a town of around 3,000 people and I work for an organization that has over 6,000 people. It’s truly impressive to see how many lives I am able to impact.

What advice do you have for future pharmacists?

My advice for future pharmacists is “growth lies at the end of your comfort zone.” In other words, you need to try and become comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s easy to get stuck in your ways and just push through but that doesn’t lead to growth for yourself or others. Take on those challenges because that is how you are going to grow both personally and professionally.

If you would have asked me during school if I could ever see myself as a preceptor, publishing articles, or giving presentations I would have told you no, to all of it. Now I can proudly say that I do them all. I owe a lot of it to my current team and my professors for always pushing me to achieve my best and could not picture myself in any other career.

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