College of Medicine and Dentistry My JCU Pharmacy Experience: Marissa Ryan – Cancer Services Pharmacist

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My JCU Pharmacy Experience: Marissa Ryan – Cancer Services Pharmacist

Mon, 1 Nov 2021
Categories: Research, Alumni.

MarissaRyan-2020ResearchGrant Marissa Ryan was awarded a 2020 Research Grant.

Pharmacy Alumni Marissa Ryan chose pharmacy because of her love for chemistry, biology and mathematics and is now a cancer services pharmacist at The Princess Alexandra Hospital. One of the highlights so far in her career was being awarded a 2020 Research Grant to develop, implement and evaluate a cancer pharmacy telehealth model.

I chose a career in pharmacy because I enjoyed studying chemistry, biology and mathematics at school and I was interested in working in health care. I’d describe myself as a people person, so I thought a profession that involved interaction with healthcare professionals and patients would suit my personality well. I was also drawn to the fact there are a variety of settings in which a pharmacist can work.  I’ve worked in community, industry and hospital pharmacy, including in the UK.

Marissa Ryan working at Princess Alexandra Hospital

I work at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane, as the Team Leader Pharmacist for cancer services. I enjoy the variety of work that I do, which includes clinical responsibilities with the pharmaceutical care of patients with cancer. I also have operational, research, leadership and financial duties. In addition, I’m involved in providing education for clinicians both at the hospital level as well as externally, such as for the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia. Also, I like the optimism in the field of cancer services.  Providing cancer pharmacy services to patients can be challenging at times because of the sometimes grim prognosis a patient may have. However, the abundance of research activity in oncology and haematology has contributed to better treatments and care, and therefore increased patient survival and improved quality of life outcomes.

My JCU experience provided me with a foundation in communication skills that has helped me in my career, particularly with regards to cultural awareness. As a healthcare professional, it is important to be able to effectively and respectfully communicate with patients and healthcare professionals from diverse backgrounds. In addition, I feel the JCU degree dedicated a solid amount of teaching towards cancer therapeutics and immunology, which I found fascinating, and helped to point me in the direction of cancer pharmacy. I also enjoyed my JCU rural placement, working in a community pharmacy on Magnetic Island.  The slower pace meant having more time to spend with patients. Getting to break up my day with a sea-view lunch was awesome, too!


One of the highlights of my career so far was being awarded a 2020 Research Grant to develop, implement and evaluate a cancer pharmacy telehealth model. I have enrolled in a Doctor of Philosophy, and I'm looking forward to learning new research methods. I’m also very proud to have completed a Master of Health Management and a Graduate Diploma of Clinical Pharmacy while being a mum and working. Fortunately, my husband, Mark, is an incredibly supportive husband and father to our four energetic, young boys - it's certainly a team effort when it comes to juggling everything.  Importantly, I’m continually able to translate what I learnt in my postgraduate studies into practice.

The future of pharmacy looks bright, with increased opportunities for pharmacists to work in hospital outpatient clinic roles. I also think there will be a greater calling for more pharmacists to work in education to build a more capable workforce, as well as IT systems, as we increasingly make the shift to integrated electronic medical records.  Co-prescribing with doctors is also another area where pharmacists can potentially contribute to better patient outcomes.