KINGSVILLE, TEXAS — The Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy receives multiyear funding through grants and scholarships that assist in its mission of providing health care training for students who serve the underserved areas of Texas.

For the next four years, the college will receive $2.6 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Health Resources and Services Administration under the Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students (SDS) Program. It will be used to supplement the educational costs of qualified students attending the TAMHSC-Rangel College of Pharmacy and provide much-needed assistance to those qualified students pursuing their professional studies in the college.

About 161 qualified students will receive, on average, $4,000 each in a scholarship for the current academic year.

“These scholarships are significant to our needy and deserving students to successfully complete their education and training, affording them to offset their expenses and to lessen their financial burden,” said Indra Reddy, Ph.D., professor and founding dean of the TAMHSC-Rangel College of Pharmacy.

The HHS Health Resource and Services Administration (HRSA) health professions programs emphasize providing health care to the underserved. For instance, almost 40 percent of students trained by HRSA-funded programs experience some of their training in underserved areas, which has been shown to increase the likelihood that the individual will remain and practice in those areas.

First-year pharmacy doctoral student Maricela Villarreal was grateful to receive the Scholarship for Disadvantaged Students for 2012.

“As a returning student after five years, it was overwhelming at how quickly expenses can stack up for supplies and textbooks,” said Villarreal, who graduated with a bachelor’s in biology from Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi in 2007. “As much as I prepared financially prior to beginning school, the scholarship especially helped as the semester came to a close.”

The experience also provided Villarreal, who commutes from Corpus Christi, insight on how to better manage her financial aid for the spring 2013 semester and what expenses she can predict more accurately, especially those not common for a general undergraduate degree such as health insurance, vaccinations, intern license fees and gas.

These programs fit in well with the pharmacy college, which was created in 2006 by the Texas Legislature in response to the shortage of pharmacists in the border region.

More than half of the students participating in HRSA-funded programs are from disadvantaged backgrounds. Studies have demonstrated that individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds also are more likely to practice in underserved areas.

Second-year pharmacy doctoral student Mahmoud Sabawi from Portland, Texas, said the scholarship helped him buy textbooks and other school supplies for college.

“For last semester, I used the SDS to buy a new laptop, which I really needed because my old laptop was giving me a world of problems,” Sabawi said.

And for first-year pharmacy doctoral student Rodolfo Rangel of San Antonio, the award allowed him to concentrate on school rather than money.

“I am able to travel to many service learning sites like in McAllen, Texas,” said Rangel, also a graduate of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. “I appreciate that I was chosen as a recipient. This award helps in paying books for school and for some rent.”

The 2011 American Community Survey found that among metro areas with populations of 500,000 or more, poverty rates ranged from a low of 8.3 percent in the Washington, D.C., metro area to 37.7 percent in McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas (near the TAMHSC-Rangel College of Pharmacy on the campus of Texas A&M University-Kingsville).

The SDS program grant to the TAMHSC-Rangel College of Pharmacy was established through the work of James Robertson Jr., Ph.D., who died in November 2012 and was the college’s first associate dean for student affairs beginning in May 2005.

“I know that much effort was put into acquiring these funds for students, and I want to extend my greatest appreciation for the late Dr. James Robertson and the staff that assisted in helping procure monies for all students that benefited from their hard work,” Villarreal said.

— Cheri Shipman