(COLLEGE STATION, TX) — The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board unanimously approved Thursday the granting of the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree by the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, thereby enabling the first stand-alone professional school in South Texas to open its doors in mid-August.

The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents transferred the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, located on the campus of Texas A&M-Kingsville, to the HSC in March. It recently received “pre-candidate” status from the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (the national accreditation body for pharmacy schools), with eligibility for full accreditation following graduation of the charter class in spring 2010.

“Building upon the excellent work done by the Texas A&M University-Kingsville team, the Texas A&M Health Science Center is delighted that the rigorous work of the last several months by a substantial team of administrators has culminated in today’s unanimous vote by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board,” 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 University System. “With the approval from the Coordinating Board and provisional approval by the ACPE, we will welcome the first class of students on Aug, 14, 2006.”

The HSC-Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy has admitted 71 students to the inaugural class, of which 61 percent are from South Texas, and 38 percent are Hispanic. Traditionally, South Texas students and Hispanic students have been under-represented in the state’s Pharm.D. programs.

“Just as it took a team to get this far, it will take the excellent College of Pharmacy team to turn this opportunity into a superb educational experience in the South Texas region,” Dr. Dickey said.

Plans are to expand to 100 full-time students by the fourth year. Eleven core faculty will be involved the first year, with a goal of 38 faculty by the third year.

“The Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy is very pleased with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s approval of the Pharm.D. degree program,” said Indra Reddy, Ph.D., founding dean of the HSC-Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy.

“We have anticipated this day for some time and are gratified that our efforts to establish a fundamentally sound and viable program have been affirmed. Now that we have this confirmation, the administration, faculty and staff of the college eagerly look forward to the entrance of the inaugural class of students in August. We are excited about their arrival.”

The HSC-Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy is named for District 35 Rep. Irma Lerma Rangel, late chair of the House Higher Education Committee. It features slightly more than 63,000-square-foot, $14.5-million facility in Kingsville with wireless access and research laboratories.

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.

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