(KINGSVILLE, TX) — The Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy recently earned “candidate” status from the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education, putting it on track to earn full accreditation on schedule in 2010.

The HSC-Rangel College of Pharmacy also has moved from affiliate member status to full member of the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE).

“This achievement represents another step in the ongoing efforts of the Texas A&M Health Science Center to meet the critical demand for health professionals throughout our state,” said Nancy Dickey, M.D., President of the Texas A&M Health Science Center and Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs for the Texas A&M System. “In particular, the need for pharmacists in the border region of Texas is acute, and the HSC-COP is educating and training the next generation of pharmacists that will address this need.”

The ACPE is the national agency for the accreditation of professional degree programs in pharmacy and providers of continuing pharmacy education. The association accredits all Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) programs offered by U.S. colleges and schools of pharmacy.

Earning ACPE accreditation generally involves three steps: precandidate status, awarded when all ACPE standards are met to authorize a college or school to admit its first class; candidate status; and full accreditation, awarded when all ACPE standards are met and the first class has graduated. The HSC-COP, located on the campus of Texas A&M University-Kingsville, admitted its first class of 76 students in August 2006.

“We are delighted but not surprised that this milestone has been reached,” said Indra K. Reddy, Ph.D., dean of the HSC-COP. “We began working with the ACPE in 2004 in the development stage of our curriculum so that our program would meet or exceed the requirements for accreditation.”

In fact, Dr. Reddy added, the HSC-COP achieved a jump-start of sorts in achieving the ACPE’s new standards of accreditation that went into effect this month because pharmacy college leaders had the foresight to work with the ACPE in the developmental stages of the college.

“We were in the strategically advantageous position to have access to the ACPE’s draft of its new standards throughout the development of our program,” Dr. Reddy said. “Long-established programs at other schools are now finding they must make some major revisions to their curricula. This benefits our students in that they already are enrolled in a program of study that fulfills the ACPE’s newly adopted requirements.”

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 have been finalized with facilities in the Coastal Bend and Lower Rio Grande Valley areas of South Texas to meet those requirements.

The curriculum was developed and is monitored by the entire faculty.

“Our curriculum focuses on enabling our students to develop the competencies they need for the professional practice of pharmacy,” Dr. Reddy said. “For example, we begin incorporating experiential education – the practice of pharmacy – into the first year. We also are unlike other pharmacy schools in that our students’ 1,500 clinical practice hours are in the field at pharmacies and other practice sites and not in our own labs or ‘mock practices.’

“All of these features of our curriculum qualify us for accreditation under the new ACPE standards and, most importantly, give our students the education and training they need to be effective pharmacy practitioners in serving their patients upon graduation,” Dr. Reddy continued.

The HSC-COP’s successful efforts to fulfill ACPE standards also enabled the college to achieve full member status, Dr. Reddy noted.

“Normally, an affiliate member moves to associate member status,” Dr. Reddy said. “However, the association has omitted that step and designated us a full member.”

The ACPE Standards for Accreditation consist of 30 rigorous objectives in eight categories: Standards for Mission, Planning and Assessment; Organization and Administration; Curriculum; Students; Faculty; Library and Learning Resources; Physical and Practice Facilities; and Financial Resources. Pharmacy schools applying for candidate status have the option of submitting a self-evaluation study with their application, and the HSC-COP elected to do so.

“We wanted to do it,” Dr. Reddy said. “We involved all of our faculty, students and staff in developing it, making it truly a self-evaluation and giving everyone here ownership of the college and its work.”

Colleges and schools of pharmacy applying for candidate status are evaluated in an on-site visit by a team of pharmacy practitioners and educators, which then issues its report on accreditation to the ACPE. The evaluation team rates the college as meeting, partially meeting or not meeting each of the 30 standards.

Following the on-site visit, the college provides additional information to follow-up on the report, and representatives from the college then meet with ACPE officials. The ACPE then makes its decision on the candidate status of the school.

The HSC-COP was visited in March by the ACPE on-site evaluation team. The team included Dr. Robert Brueggemeier, dean of The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy; Dr. Susan M. Meyer, associate dean of education of the University of Pittsburgh College of Pharmacy; Terry A. Short, R.Ph., regional vice president of the Medicine Shoppe; Dr. W. William Zito, professor of pharmaceutical sciences of St. John’s University College of Pharmacy; Dr. Jeffrey W. Wadelin, director of Professional Degree Program Accreditation with the ACPE; and W. Benjamin Fry, R.Ph., of the Texas Board of Pharmacy.

The HSC-COP provided follow-up information to the ACPE, and HSC administrators met with association officials in June. The ACPE awarded candidate status to the college in June and associate member status in July.

Acceptance into the Rangel College of Pharmacy is highly competitive. New students report Aug. 9 for orientation and classes begin Aug. 13.

The Texas A&M Health Science Center provides the state with health education, outreach and research. Its six components located in communities throughout Texas are Baylor College of Dentistry, the College of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Institute of Biosciences and Technology, the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, and the School of Rural Public Health.

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