'I love my job,' says UCSF expert in HIV/AIDS, HCV

May 10, 2016

Betty J. Dong, clinician, researcher, professor, and recipient of many honors, talks about her practice of pharmacy and public health.

Betty J. Dong, PharmD, FCCP, FASHP, AAHIVP, FAPhA, professor in the Department of Clinical
Pharmacy at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), has been honored with the 2016 PPSI/Stan Hartman Distinguished Person of the Year Award by Pharmacists Planning Service, Inc.

Betty DongPPSI recognized Dong for her commitment to the profession of pharmacy as “an agent of change, educator, clinician, leader, policymaker, and community activist."

Dong also has been recognized as Pharmacist of the Year by the California Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

She was elected Distinguished Practitioner and Fellow from the National Association of Practitioners, and Fellow of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists and the American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP).

She received the Clinical Practice Award from the ACCP and has been named a Distinguished Alumna by the UCSF School of Pharmacy Alumni Association.

Drug Topics recently spoke with Dong about her achievements as a clinician, researcher, and professor.

DT:What made you decide to become a clinical pharmacist and researcher, specializing in HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C infection?

Dong: HIV/AIDS/HCV are exciting areas for pharmacists, because they are all about drugs, drug interactions, side effects, and adherence. HIV is a different disease today than it was in the 1980s. Along with antiretroviral therapy (ART) and its drug interactions, chronic disease management is now a major part of HIV care. Clinical HIV/HCV pharmacists need to be well versed in management of multiple diseases.

DT: At the Family Medicine Clinic at San Francisco General Hospital, you have helped HIV-infected patients with their complex drug regimens. Can you describe some of the challenges for these patients in terms of their drug therapy and how you are able to help them?

Dong: Adherence is still challenging for many patients, especially if there are competing social and psychosocial issues. Many patients deal with stigma, social isolation, illicit drugs, and family issues.

I recently referred a mother of five children to social services because she had issues with adherence due to fatigue from working long hours to hold down two jobs. She received a letter to allow her to take a break from work. I also gave her some adherence tips on taking her HIV medications and worked to help her to understand the consequences of high blood pressure.

Her blood pressure now is at goal. With other patients, I have reviewed their ART history and resistance tests, and consolidated and reduced their pill burden, often improving tolerability and making their drug regimens easier.

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DT: As a consultant for the Clinician Consultation Center, you provide clinical consultations to healthcare providers for patients with HIV and HCV infections. What exactly does this entail?

Dong: We provide a second opinion for any clinician who seeks a clinical consultation. I review all the patient’s history and answer specific questions. I also provide consultation on side effects, adherence, and drug interactions during the consultation. I also work with a team of clinicians with whom I can consult, if necessary.

DT: Please describe your latest public health pilot project in hepatitis C screening in community pharmacies.

Dong: I applied for and received a contract with the San Francisco Department of Public Health to work with five to eight community pharmacists at two community pharmacies in San Francisco to conduct HCV screening. We are targeting individuals living in areas of the city where they are less likely to be screened for the disease. Those identified as positive for HCV will be referred for care. Our plan is to screen about 150 to 200 patients, mostly those in the high-risk birth cohort for HCV.

DT: What has been the most rewarding part of your career so far?

Dong: I have been very fortunate to be practicing in pharmacy today. I have had multiple opportunities to positively affect patient care and provide education to peers and students. I love my job, because I feel that I am doing my part to contribute to bettering society.

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