Milena Murray, PharmD, MSc, BCIDP, AAHIVP
Milena Murray went to the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania before moving to Brooklyn, New York to complete a PGY-1 Pharmacy Residency at Maimonides Medical Center. As a resident, she staffed the emergency room. “I later found that I loved this environment because of all the antibiotic use,” reflects Dr. Murray. Immediately following residency, she completed an ID fellowship at Northwestern Memorial Hospital through Midwestern University in Chicago/Downers Grove, Illinois. That was about seven years ago and, since then, Dr. Murray has been engaged in the care of people with HIV.
“I practice at a large clinic with over 1,000 patients in Chicago, Illinois. We have nurses, social workers, advanced practice providers, and physicians. We also train ID fellows. I am one of two pharmacists for the clinic.” Dr, Murray and her team have a wide variety of patient types. The clinic sees 60 to 70 patients a day for a variety of reasons. Most of her patient population is living with HIV and her team also has transplant ID, follow-up ID, and a special clinic half-day for pregnant patients with HIV. They see patients of all socioeconomic statuses and types of insurance. Many of their patients have been followed for 20+ years with a large population of aging patients.
With these patients, it is important to try to understand reasons for adherence or non-adherence. “You have to develop a relationship with the patient to find out this information,” says Dr. Murray, “Once the true barrier is known, you can help the patient overcome it. For those who are adherent, the reason that drives adherence can be a helpful reminder when a patient is experiencing pill fatigue.”
One successful practice that Dr. Murray would share with others is having pharmacy students that are pharmacist extenders in the clinic, enabling reach to so many more patients. Reflecting on unique opportunities she has had in her career; she remembers the experience of counseling a patient with vision impairment about his new therapy. “It was a most humbling moment to tell the patient about the medications and have him touch each tablet/capsule.”
Asked about what motivated her to pursue specializing in HIV care, Dr. Murray recalls, “I have always had a fascination with HIV. In the third grade, our gym teacher taught us about blood-borne illness and HIV piqued my interest. In pharmacy school, I had a clinical rotation at an outpatient ID clinic and I loved the role of a pharmacist in this setting. During residency, I found my true love in ID and pursued fellowship training. When it came time to find a job, I felt like the luckiest person in the world to be placed in an outpatient ID clinic with such a large patient base living with HIV.”
Dr. Murray is a teacher at heart and loves educating patients, other providers, and answering all of the “hard” questions about antiretrovirals. She enjoys facilitating medication access for patients and solving clinical issues such as drug-drug interactions. Says Dr. Murray, “My greatest obstacle is insurance companies limiting treatment for life-saving medications. I never give up and appeal as many times as necessary!” Looking to the future, Murray envisions “Injectable everything! We will be seeing patients less frequently unless we are also providing primary care.”
Beyond her professional life, Murray loves to bake, especially in fun-shaped bundt pans such as castles. “A word of warning though, they are ‘too pretty’ to eat, so I cut out a piece before serving so everyone thinks that someone already took the first piece! During COVID, I have started cultivating plants and find taking care of them to be very therapeutic.”
Asked why she joined AAHIVM as an Academy Member, she says, “This will sound crazy. I saw ‘AAHIVP’ at the end of a colleague’s credentials and I didn’t know what it was. So I asked her and then decided credentialing would be a good idea if I were going to practice in the HIV arena. I joined the Academy and earned my AAHIVP credential. Fast forwarding to today, I am on the Executive Committee of the Academy’s National Board of Directors! I have really enjoyed my involvement with the Academy and all of the wonderful staff.”
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