Feedback on upgrade oncology pharmacy training in Nigeria

By Cajetan Alumona, the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital Ituku-Ozalla Enugu Oncology Center

Despite a population of 206,139,590 people and 124,815 new cases of cancer diagnosed every year1, Nigeria’s healthcare system continues to face the challenges of crumbling infrastructure and shortage of cancer healthcare professionals including pharmacists.

In  December 2021 over 34 oncology pharmacists (including myself) across the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory attended the first ever upgrade oncology pharmacy training held in Lagos, Nigeria. These pharmacists participated in a 4-day-online pre-training in oncology pharmacy basics and skills before the face-to-face training in Lagos. The upgrade oncology pharmacy training was implemented by Project Pink Blue, an organization focused on cancer awareness, screening and advocacy for people with cancer in Nigeria and supported by the U.S Embassy’s Fulbright Specialist Program.

Cajetan Alumona being mentored by Prof. Cindy O’Bryant on the use of Biosafety Cabinet for chemotherapy admixture

The week-long-training included didactic lectures, case presentations and interactive sessions on Pharmacology of oncology drugs, Designing treatment protocol for cancer management, Safe and sterile chemotherapy admixture and reconstitution, Oncology pharmacy data management, Medical training in immunotherapy and hematology, Pharmaceutical care plan creation, Oncology clinical trial, Pain management and supportive care. Hands-on- practical sessions on the use of Biosafety Cabinet with the two U.S board certified oncology pharmacists and Fulbright Specialists has helped the trainees acquire new skills and improve on the art of safe and aseptic technique in chemotherapy reconstitution.

The faculty/Fulbright Specialists for the training included  Prof. R Donald Harvey (PharmD, BCOP) of Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, USA and Prof. Cindy L. O’Bryant (PharmD, BCOP) of University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus, USA. They plan to assist in creating an educational curriculum for the Oncology Pharmacy Practitioners Association of Nigeria (OPPAN) to deliver to Nigerian students and pharmacy graduates in West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacy (WAPCP), who want to specialize in oncology. They also hope to create an exchange program for OPPAN members to visit their respective institutions for top oncology pharmacy practice in Nigeria.

The training was a huge success. Case discussions regarding how to optimize cancer management and enhance communication and shared decision-making between cancer multidisciplinary team experts and patients were highly interactive. The question-and-answer sessions were lively and focused on evidence and best practices. All of us, including the Fulbright Specialists who trained us went away with knowledge, skills and new ideas that will change our practices and improve outcomes for our patients.

From left: Jenny Foltz with the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria; R. Donald Harvey, PharmD; Project Pink Blue Executive Director Runcie Chidebe; Cindy O’Bryant, PharmD; and Gloria Okwu of Project Pink Blue

In conclusion, upgrade oncology pharmacy training was very useful to me as my participation has certainly allowed me to contribute to the betterment of oncology space in my center. The training was beneficial to me in improving cancer care through the promotion of a multidisciplinary approach. Oncology specialists worldwide have the common goal of helping patients achieve the best chance of survival and the best possible quality of life. Collaboration and communication across disciplines can help us achieve this goal.

All in all, I want to thank Project Pink Blue and the sponsors for allowing me to represent the pharmacy unit of the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital Ituku-Ozalla Enugu Oncology Center in the training. This great opportunity has certainly impacted my career in a positive way. Thank you for brightening our world with the power of knowledge, skills and mutual co-operation and for giving young Nigerian oncology pharmacist like me the hope to assist the next generation. The training was impactful with participants gaining full benefits.


1 Globocan 2020. Accessed May 23,2022