A University of Texas at Austin’s College of Pharmacy program designed to address the shortage of pharmacists in the lower Rio Grande Valley has been recognized as America’s top program for increasing achievement for Latino students.
The university’s Cooperative Pharmacy Program (CPP) was named the top Example of Excelencia by Excelencia in Education, a nonprofit organization that works to accelerate Latino student success in higher education. The group made the announcement on Tuesday, Oct. 1.
“The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Pharmacy is committed to addressing health care disparities and to partnering with other institutions in the UT System to address critical pharmacy education needs,” said Dr. Lynn Crismon, dean of the UT Austin pharmacy program.
The program is a joint venture between The University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy and University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg. It was developed in 2001 to encourage students from the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas to pursue pharmacy as a profession and to provide recruitment, training and retention of proficient pharmacists who understand the language and culture of the largely Hispanic South Texas community, said Assistant Dean of Pharmacy Lydia Aguilera, who heads the Cooperative Pharmacy Program.
Students remain in their communities to complete their pre-pharmacy coursework at UT Pan American before going to UT Austin for the first and second years of pharmacy school. The students return to the Rio Grande Valley for the third and fourth years of pharmacy study, which includes internships in various pharmacy settings.
To date, the program has awarded 68 doctor of pharmacy degrees, and more than 80 percent of these graduates have remained in the area to practice pharmacy. Many are the first in their families to attend college.
The Cooperative Pharmacy Program was selected for the Excelencia honor from a field of 165 program applications representing 22 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
“The Cooperative Pharmacy Program with UT Pan American, as well as a similar one with UT El Paso, are prime examples of what can be achieved when people positively collaborate,” said Crismon. “We are so proud that the UT Pan American Cooperative Pharmacy Program is being recognized as the top Example of Excelencia. Dr. Aguilera and her team are to be congratulated for their outstanding efforts and successes.”
Up to 12 students are admitted into the CPP annually. They represent a cross section of the approximately 89 percent Hispanic student population at UT Pan American, according to Aguilera. Students may be accepted into the cooperative pharmacy program as early as their final year of high school or after completing the majority of two years of required pre-pharmacy education at UT Pan American. Students are afforded conditional admission to the UT Austin College of Pharmacy with successful completion of the pharmacy prerequisites and other admissions requirements.
“The program’s achievements are the students’ achievements,” said Aguilera. “Our students continue to succeed, and, in the last two years, we have had 100 percent success at the first attempt of the licensure exam by the State Board of Pharmacy.”
“The UT Austin/UT Pan American Cooperative Program is at the forefront of meeting the challenge of improving higher educational achievement for Latino students,” said Sarita Brown, president of Excelencia in Education. “No longer should policymakers and institutional leaders ask how to improve college success for Latinos. We have the largest accumulation of proven examples and tested strategies that show them how.”