Ronald Crowe: The Pharmacist

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Ronald J. Crowe, RPh/BCNP is board-certified nuclear pharmacist and graduate of University of Georgia College of Pharmacy. He has practiced nuclear pharmacy since 1990 and has worked at Emory since 1997. He has worked with both the department of radiology and the School of Medicine and Imaging Core. Still currently working as a radiopharamacist at Emory, Crowe looks forward to the construction of the new Health and Sciences Research Building (HSRB) and its implications for the work that he does.

What drew you to radiology and imaging science?

In Pharmacy school, I was intrigued that radiopharmacy was a new and emerging field. Even in 1990, nuclear medicine was still an emerging field and it looked exciting. It required special training, so it looked much different than being a hospital, healthcare or drugstore pharmacist. It also gave me the opportunity to work with radioactive materials, which is not something that all pharmacists get the opportunity to work with.

What is your favorite thing about radiopharmacy? 

My favorite thing about radiopharmacy is the challenge of the technology used to prepare and quality control the research radiopharmaceuticals. I also really enjoy working with all the varied personnel it takes for a successful research study. The potential value the research may bring to future patients and the advancement of healthcare is also exciting to me.

Can you describe the process of formulating FACBC?

We prepare this research drug under the auspices of the Emory Radioactive Drug Research Committee, which reviews and approves our procedures. We produce this drug in a clean environment using proven and reproducible methods. This drug is produced according to a master production record and is subjected to various quality assurance and quality control testing before being released for research use. The radiopharmacy team works diligently to prepare this PET imaging drug in the controlled environment, performing the various required quality control methods and tests to ensure that the drug is suitable for research use. This includes testing for sterility, bacterial endotoxins and chemical and radiochemical purities, as well as other testing.

What is most challenging about the work that you do? 

The most challenging aspect is the coordination of all the equipment required to both produce the research radiopharmaceutical and to test the radiopharmaceutical for quality assurance. The equipment is complex and requires dedication, care, and attention to detail for proper operation. My radiopharmacy coworkers are healthcare professionals and place safety above all else, and I am proud to work with them on the research studies.

What do you think the impact of the radiopharmacy suite in the new Health and Science Research Building (HSRB) is going to be?

The new radiopharmacy suite will truly be a game-changer with regard to the advancement of molecular imaging. Just the fact that we will be located in a hub of groundbreaking health and human research. It will be located right next to the existing Health and Sciences Research Building and just down from the Winship Cancer Institute. There are so many facilities and scientists that we will be available to collaborate with. I am amazed by the vision and foresight of Emory leadership to lay the groundwork for this collaboration between scientific and healthcare teams. Although I have had some sleepless nights worrying about making the correct decisions regarding the design and function of the new Radiopharmacy core I am very excited and feel fortunate to be a part of this great endeavor.  There have been countless meetings with different Emory team members, design experts and the many construction collaborators and vendors in a concerted effort to find our way to having such a fantastic facility. I think we are well on our way, and I give many thanks to Emory leadership and healthcare to furnish us with the tools to make these life-changing discoveries.

What have you found most rewarding about seeing your work help patients?

My main reward is the patients. Seeing healthcare advance, seeing people’s lives extended or restored, and the impact that must have on their loved ones. Working with other great people is also a reward, and my colleagues are instrumental to the job that we do. There are also the other teams that I work with that are very rewarding: the imaging team, the medical teams, the nursing teams, and the physics teams. There are so many professionals behind the scenes that work towards these amazing outcomes and discoveries. It may sound like a cliché, but the job itself is its own reward. Even when it is most challenging, we know that we do make a difference. Occasionally we even meet people whose lives we have impacted in a positive way. That’s a good feeling.

How did you meet Ken, and what that was like?

I first met Ken when we began meetings and discussions regarding the new building, HSRBII. I immediately liked Ken and saw him as an expert in construction management and I enjoyed his personality including his knowledge, confidence, and passion for a job well-done. After some discussions, Ken offered me the chance to visit the construction site and during that visit, we began to discuss more about my job and responsibilities. At that time Ken confided to me that he had received one of our radiopharmaceuticals for a scan and that he credited that with a favorable outcome. I was very taken by this as we don’t often have contact with patients after their research scans. I saw Ken’s dedication to this building project and was honored to work with him on it.

Who has influenced you in your career the most and why?

There have been quite a few big influences at different stages in my life. Early on in my career, it was Michael Mosely, who was the first nuclear pharmacy manager that I worked with. He really showed me how to be a professional and how to be a good nuclear pharmacist. More recently, I would have to mention colleagues at Emory. I would have to thank Ernest Garcia, the first director of the PET center, and Mark Goodman PET Radiochemistry director, for taking a chance on me and giving me the opportunity to become an Emory PET radiopharmacist. Both Dr. Garcia and Dr. Goodman supported me and gave me the tools and the opportunity to do a good job. I would also list physicians from early in my career such as Dr.  John Hoffman, who showed great care for his patients and emphasized the importance of research. Currently the opportunity to work with Emory’s amazing scientists and physicians, especially Dr. David Schuster, has been a boost for me and Dr. Schuster has encouraged and supported me and my team, pushing us to work at a higher level. These people, and others not mentioned, have been important mentors and influencers that I have been fortunate to work with.  I feel very privileged to work for Emory.

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