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New course first of its kind in Canada

Dr. Lori Wood wanted residents in medical oncology to have more knowledge about how cancer drugs worked. Today, they do – along with other health professionals and students. The first graduate studies course at Dalhousie University in this area – Pharmacology and Therapeutics of Systemic Cancer Therapy – has now been launched.

“If you understand how our  current drugs work, it opens up your mind to other possibilities, including better treatments,” says Dr. Wood, a medical oncologist with Capital Health’s Cancer Care Program and one of three course administrators.
The 14-week course, which ran earlier this year with seven pharmacists, four internal medical sub-specialty residents, four science graduate students from Pharmacology and Pathology, and two nurse practitioners, is designed to increase understanding about how drugs work from a basic science perspective and in the clinic. It encourages participants to share their viewpoints and learn from each other’s disciplines. Insight into how other disciplines care for patients is a cornerstone of enhanced cancer care.
"This is the way we need to learn about cancer therapies,” says Dr. Jonathan Blay, Professor of Pharmacology, Pathology and Biology at Dalhousie University. “We need to understand the theory behind how drugs act, but that needs to be set on firm ground by understanding what is done in practice.”

The course, noted Larry Broadfield, Manager, Systemic Therapy with Cancer Care Nova Scotia, may be the first of its kind in Canada. “I am not aware of any course in pharmacology that has brought together scientists and clinicians or that has included pharmacists and nurses.

The course is being built collaboratively with input from educators from the university, hospitals,  and CCNS. “In this approach of 'learning as a community', we see things in their most useful context,” says Dr. Blay. “Not only that, but it's a far more interesting way to learn!"


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