Pharmacist: “These Aren’t Refrigerator Drawings.”

Patrick Kiel, a pharmacist with IU Health’s Precision Genomics Program uses a simple method to explain treatment options to patients – he draws pictures.

He starts with a series of circles at the top of the blank page. Next, Patrick Kiel adds other objects to his cryptic pen and ink drawing.  There’s a three-legged table, more circles, and words like “DNA,” “Synthetic Lethality” and “Olaparib.”

Patrick Kiel is a clinical pharmacy specialist with oncology/hematology for IU Health’s Precision Genomics Program. He is also an illustrator.

When he sits down with patients and draws his diagrams, he is helping them see their cancer diagnosis and treatment on paper. “I think patients love the interplay of sitting there watching the drawing develop and then I give it to them to take home,” said Kiel. “I warn them I’m not an art major. These aren’t refrigerator drawings; these are sketches to help them understand and connect the dots.”

By the time patients reach Kiel; they already have experience with cancer. They want to know the next steps, the next treatment options. Doctors and researchers with the IU Health Precision Genomics Program perform genetic analysis to determine specific treatments for cancer patients. That may mean something different than traditional treatment methods and could include clinical trials or off label drugs.  

Patients are referred into the Precision Genomics Program from around the country, and they receive a treatment plan recommended by a multidisciplinary team of specialists.

“Generally, I meet them where they are – take what they know and expand their knowledge. There’s a team of us that approach our patients as a consult service in coordination with their primary oncologist,” said Kiel, who has been with IU Health since 2008. He grew up in an Irish neighborhood on the south side of Chicago and completed his undergraduate degree at Benedictine University. He obtained his PhMD from Midwestern University and completed an internal medicine residency at Rush University, Chicago.

“The way I explain treatment options to patients is a distilled version. My goal is to review the findings and give them a little biology lesson,” said Kiel. “I usually start off by explaining cancer, mutations and talk about what does it mean to check DNA blueprints. I explain the goal of the Precision Genomics clinic is to review the patient’s genetics, discover the mutation, and repair it and prevent it from developing into cancer.”

So the circles represent cells and the three-legged table represents the damage to those cells. Then Kiel talks about treatment options that repair damage such as Olaparib, a targeted therapy that specifically acts against cancers in people with hereditary BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, including ovarian, breast and prostate cancer. Every patient is different; every drawing is different to represent the most personal treatment option.

“A great day at this job is uncovering a genomic finding that is new and gives a patient an effective treatment option with limited side effects,” said Kiel.

More about Kiel:

  • He and his wife, Alicia have five children ages 13, 10, 8, 6 and 2.
  • Why he became a pharmacist: “When I was younger I was a Boy Scout and earned by key merit badge in first aid. I got a job as a pharmacy tech at the age of 16 and loved it.”
  • When he’s not at work he enjoys spending time with his children camping, hiking and fishing. He also plays fiddle and is taking ballroom dance lessons with his wife.

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at
 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.