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Anna Sutherland, PharmD, BCOP

Anna Sutherland, PharmD, BCOP

In shameless self-promotion, I am happy to announce that I found out tonight that I passed the BCOP exam. For those that follow this blog that are not-so-pharmacy-savy, first of all, I appreciate you for reading this and any past and future blogs. Second of all, BCOP is the Board Certification in Oncology Pharmacy (BCOP) examination administered by the Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS). So as I sit here enjoying a nice home brew in celebration of this accomplishment, I think about what this certification means to me.

The Road to BCOP: Two of my fellow oncology pharmacists and I held study group almost weekly beginning in late June after work (okay fine, we slacked until after July 4th and the study groups were mostly over happy hour). Discussions on clinical trial statistics, treatment choices for all different tumor types, bone marrow transplant concepts, and supportive care engulfed our lives. I found myself thinking, “Is this required for my profession?” No. “Do I HAVE to take this certification to practice successfully as an oncology clinical pharmacist?” Probably not. “Will I make more money if I have these added qualifications?” No (well, not when you work for the state). Did I sit for the exam anyway? Sure did. And, yes, we talked about nearly every question on the first half of the exam during our lunch break.

I have thought long and hard about what BCOP means to me (and did the same when I considered certifying for BCPS – Board Certification in Pharmaceutical Sciences). Having completed a General Pharmacy PGY1 and Oncology Pharmacy PGY2, I felt that I had adequate training to begin my profession as a clinical pharmacist in oncology. But, I always felt as if I needed some type of “final exam” to prove I was good enough. BCOP was that to me. And like any other final exam that proceeded this one, of course I thought there were unfair questions (come on, platelet transfusion thresholds? I sure hope I’m not the primary clinician weighing in on that!). Regardless, I have a lot of pride and sense of accomplishment in passing this optional exam and demonstrating some sort of objective competency in my professional career. While most oncology pharmacists pursue BCOP, several still do not. I still find some of the most brilliant oncology pharmacists I’ve crossed paths with (ahem, David Frame) don’t need BCOP to prove any worth in my eyes. I don’t know where it will take me in life (I AM now qualified to be a residency program director at some point – BCOP required by ASHP), but you better believe I will be signing the BCOP after that PharmD…. atleast for the first year.

Okay that’s enough about me. Will get back to the drugs next week.

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  1. HI Anna

    First congrats. I am planning do BCOP exam this year 2012. No speciality background Any words of wisdom?

    • Profile photo of Anna Sutherland

      Hi Farrukh, Thanks for the comment! Have you been working in an oncology setting? Certainly experience in oncology pharmacy is a BIG help, but you could consider going to BCOP review course in Denver ( If you don’t attend, I would purchase the study materials (also available from ACCP). Study groups really help if you have others interested in taking the exam. Joining Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association (HOPA) is also a nice way of keeping up with oncology pharmacy concepts. Best of luck! Thanks for reading, best wishes!

    • Profile photo of Peter Schlickman

      I’ll echo Anna’s comments. The review course was certainly a huge help for me. Plus you can’t really go wrong visiting Denver in May! Additionally my other advice would be start early, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience in the specialty. For example I began studying in June and I had a PGY-2 year under my belt at that point. Good luck.

  2. hi mrs.Anna ,congratulations first for your success in BCOP exam,I already had the exam in 2011 and unfortunately I did not pass the exam ,I just want to ask for advise in studying to pass ,I already have the review books and also the CD for the final review for the course ,and I also ask if there is a group for study or suggestions you know ,thanks

  3. Congratulations. but I will tell you that having BCOP is not even close to having done a residency in oncology, PGY2, usually. I suppose it is nice to have the BCOP done and passed and most people with PGY2 in oncology will take the exam. but I will tell you right now that having BCOP is not even 1000th of having done a actual residency in oncology specialty pharmacy.
    Oh and taking about the Exam questions after taking the test with your collegues is Illegal…

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