(KINGSVILLE, TX)—The first week in April saw a new round of student interviews for the inaugural class of the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy on the campus of Texas A&M University-Kingsville.

It was a reassuring sight for the faculty, staff, legislators and supporters who had dedicated so much of their time and effort to support the opening of the first professional school in South Texas by fall 2006.

The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents transferred the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy to the Texas A&M Health Science Center in March. The expectation is that adequate state funding for the 2008-2009 pharmacy classes will be provided. These factors allowed the college to stay on track for admitting students in fall 2006.

“All of our programs are funded fairly tightly. We are accustomed to meeting the demands of our programs while achieving high levels of success with our available resources,” said Nancy W. Dickey, M.D., president of the Health Science Center and vice chancellor for Health Affairs for the Texas A&M System. “The commitment to South Texas and the pharmacy school will be no different.”

Long and winding road

Getting to that point was a long and winding road that began during the 77th Texas Legislative Session in 2001, when State Rep. Irma Rangel authored the House Bill that called for the creation of the school. She succumbed to cancer the week before the school’s groundbreaking in March 2003. Construction then began on the 67,792-square-foot building, and the first class of students was expected to enter by fall 2005.

With construction underway, Indra Reddy, Ph.D., was hired in February 2004 to serve as professor and founding dean of the college.

Completion of the building was just a few months away in March 2005 when a recommendation from the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) prompted A&M-Kingsville to move its first class date to fall 2006 to give Dr. Reddy time to hire key personnel and secure adequate and continued funding – something that the Texas Legislature had not been able to provide at the level needed.

The college decided to go forward with the application review process as planned that month and recommended guaranteed admission for approximately 30 applicants for the first class.

Building completed in 2005

New hires also were made, including two associate deans, three faculty members and six administrative staff members. Faculty and staff from the college moved into the completed building in July 2005.

Administrators from A&M-Kingsville and the A&M System continued working to keep fall 2006 as a viable start date, contingent on a funding solution. South Texas community leaders proposed ideas, as did legislators, leaders in private industry, journalists and students.

Staying on track for accreditation from the ACPE was a top priority. To ensure the approvals necessary to open in fall 2006, a site visit from ACPE was scheduled for April 2006 even though some questions remained unanswered. Securing long-term funding was critical to the future of the college.

Solution from within

The solution came from within in March 2006, when the college was transferred from A&M-Kingsville to the Texas A&M Health Science Center, which will stretch to find the resources necessary to open on time. The A&M System Board of Regents approved the change at their meeting that month. Both state and national regulating agencies were supportive of the move.

The transfer provided a number of advantages, including the strong foundation of existing HSC clinical and educational programs in the Coastal Bend region; higher formula funding from the Legislature for professional doctoral programs in pharmacy that are offered by health-related institutions; existing opportunities for collaboration with other components of the HSC; and existing course offerings and faculty that could support the pharmacy program.

Students will enter the $14.5-million facility for the first time this August, fulfilling a promise made five years before to address the state and national shortage of pharmacists. With more than 1,000 students applying for admission to the inaugural class, and nearly 200 qualified applicants being interviewed to date for the coveted 70 seats, the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy will do its part to make that shortage a thing of the past.

— Marketing & Communications