HSC Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy officially opens doors

August 10, 2006

(KINGSVILLE, TX) — The demand for pharmacists has grown tremendously, and the Texas A&M Health Science Center is meeting that need with the new Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy in Kingsville.

The official opening Thursday of the first stand-alone professional school south of San Antonio featured a ribbon-cutting and student-led tours of the new facility on the Texas A&M University-Kingsville campus, followed by a student dinner in the evening.

The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents transferred the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy to the HSC in March. It has received approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and “pre-candidate” status from the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.

“It took a woman to bring a professional college to South Texas,” said Herminia Rangel Henderson, R.Ph., sister of Irma Lerma Rangel and the first female pharmacist in Kleberg County who practiced in Kingsville for 51 years. “Back then, they didn’t respect us much. So girls (female pharmacy students), go out and go to it.”

The HSC-COP is named for the late District 35 Rep. Irma Lerma Rangel, chair of the House Higher Education Committee, and is the only accredited or “pre-candidate” pharmacy school named after a Hispanic. A groundbreaking on the approximately 63,000-square-foot, $14.5-million facility – featuring wireless access and research laboratories – took place in March 2003, and the college officially was named after her in October 2004.

“This is an exciting new era of addressing health care issues in South Texas,” said Bob McTeer, Ph.D., chancellor of the Texas A&M University System. “This school will bolster our presence in South Texas and add value to the region.”

College officials received more than 1,000 applications and conducted approximately 200 interviews for more than 70 spots in the inaugural class, which will graduate in spring 2010.

“The significance of this day – for this new generation of pharmacists – cannot be understated,” said Nancy W. Dickey, M.D., president of the Texas A&M Health Science Center and vice chancellor for Health Affairs for the A&M System. “Among these students may well be those who are first in their family or their communities to pursue a professional degree. Over 60 percent of these students are from South Texas, with a commitment to serve South Texas and their respective communities.”

The Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy is the sixth component of the Texas A&M Health Science Center, joining the Baylor College of Dentistry, the College of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Institute of Biosciences and Technology, and the School of Rural Public Health. The A&M System is providing oversight for the upcoming fiscal year.

“Students that study here fill a critical need for this region,” said Texas Speaker of the House Tom Craddick (R-Midland). “She (Irma Lerma Rangel) left a legacy of science and research. She’d argue at the drop of a coin for South Texas. Hopefully, this class will grow and grow in the future, and it is on you (the students) to achieve success for the college.”

Pharmacy program admission is highly competitive. Ninety-seven colleges and schools nationwide, including the HSC-COP, will offer the Pharm.D. as a first professional degree in fall 2006. There were 92 colleges and schools of pharmacy with accredited professional degree programs in fall 2005, according to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.

There are six Texas pharmacy programs, including Texas Southern, Texas Tech, the University of Houston, the University of the Incarnate Word and the University of Texas-Austin.

“I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time,” said Indra Reddy, Ph.D., dean of the HSC-Rangel College of Pharmacy. “This is a journey that has just begun, and there is still a long way to go. This is truly an historic and momentous day for all of us.”

A proclamation was presented by Mike Morrissey, director of Budget and Planning and Policy for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, on behalf of the governor. Sam Fugate, mayor of Kingsville, also presented a proclamation declaring Aug. 10, 2006, as “Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy Appreciation Day” in Kingsville.

The need for trained pharmacy professionals has exploded due to the rapid growth of the health care and pharmaceutical industries, especially for the growing elderly population. A shortfall of as many as 157,000 pharmacists nationwide is predicted by the year 2020, according to the Pharmacy Manpower Project, Inc. Recent statistics also indicate the Texas-Mexico border region has a population-pharmacist ratio of 1,770-to-1, significantly higher than the 1,339-to-1 statewide ratio.

In 2004, the A&M System Board of Regents committed $3.1 million to hire the initial cohort of faculty and prepare for full accreditation for the pharmacy school. Again, though, a lack of state funding for operations delayed the planned fall 2005 opening until this year.

The HSC will contribute funding to the pharmacy school in Fiscal Year 2007, with additional appropriations provided by the state.

The pharmacy curriculum consists of 146 semester credit hours beyond the minimum two-year prerequisite and core curriculum requirements. Students also must complete 1,500 clinical practice hours to be licensed in Texas, and agreements are being finalized with facilities (primarily in Corpus Christi and the Lower Rio Grande Valley) to meet those requirements.

There will be 11 core faculty at the HSC-COP the first year, with plans to expand to 38 faculty by the third year. Class size is expected to expand to 100 full-time students by the fourth academic year.

Faculty within the college and HSC components will benefit from collaboration opportunities for basic science and translational research. In addition, the wealth of library resources the HSC already has in place will serve to support both the educational and research missions of the program.

Besides attracting future pharmacists, the HSC-COP could bring pharmaceutical companies in to study and develop drugs for diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. And, there are opportunities for cooperation between the United States and Mexico to improve border health care.

“I sat on the committee to name this building, and it was the quickest and easiest committee I ever sat on,” Fugate said. “Irma Rangel did so much good public service for this committee. In getting this school open, it was more than the City of Kingsville and Kleberg County. It was the efforts of the entire region.”

Other attendees included U.S. Congressmen Solomon Ortiz (D-TX) and Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX); Texas Sens. Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville) and Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio); Texas Reps. Juan Escobar (D-Kingsville), Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria), Gene Seaman (R-Corpus Christi) and Yvonne Toureilles (D-Alice); former Texas Sen. Carlos Truan; Bill Jones, J.D., A&M System Board of Regents; Rumaldo Juárez, Ph.D., president of Texas A&M University-Kingsville (by video); and other government officials, community leaders, A&M System administrators and invited guests.

— Marketing & Communications