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Texas A&M Pharmacy PhD program approved for spring 2020 launch

Latest program will enhance pool of scientists and educators, especially in South Texas
July 26, 2019

A doctoral degree program in pharmaceutical sciences at the Texas A&M Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy was approved July 25 by a unanimous vote of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

The first cohort in the PhD program will start in spring 2020 at the Kingsville and Bryan, Texas, locations, which operate under a “one program, two campuses” model. Students and faculty in both locations connect through video conferencing.

Founding dean of the college and professor Indra Reddy, PhD, said he is eager to see the new program begin. “The PhD program in pharmaceutical sciences will pave the way for South Texas to be on the forefront of drug discovery, development and delivery,” he said. “There is an immeasurable potential to help the diverse patient population of our region by making lifesaving medications more effective, accessible and affordable.” The South Texas area benefits from the location there, as about 60 percent of graduates stay in the area.

There are five doctoral programs in pharmaceutical sciences in Texas. The Rangel College of Pharmacy will distinguish itself by offering graduate training and education based on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recommendations for transforming the way medical products are developed, evaluated and manufactured. Students will design and conduct research, have hands-on experience at research centers and laboratories and complete a dissertation.

Texas A&M Provost & Executive Vice President Carol Fierke said, “The establishment of a PhD program in Pharmaceutical Sciences in the Rangel College of Pharmacy builds on and strengthens Texas A&M University as a research-intensive institution dedicated to advancing the discovery and development of innovative drug therapies.”

Karen Butler-Purry, PhD, PE, associate provost for graduate and professional studies at Texas A&M, said, “We are excited to have this great addition to our graduate programs. FDA’s critical path and modernization of pharmaceutical development was the missing piece of our puzzle. It is great to see the convergence of multidisciplinary faculty to help train the future generation of pharmaceutical scientists in this modern paradigm.”

Workforce projections for pharmaceutical science-related positions include biochemistry, biological science, medical science, and microbiology roles in addition to drug research and development. The U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected average annual openings of 23,400 nationally and 990 in Texas, indicating growth nationally and in Texas above the national average in most industries.

The Rangel College of Pharmacy began educational operations in August 2006, with a 75-student PharmD class in a three-story facility. It was created to help address a severe shortage of pharmacists—which was projected to reach 157,000 nationwide by 2020, as forecasted by Pharmacy Manpower Project Inc.

By 2012, the college ranked among the top 50 pharmacy programs in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. It was also ranked second in the nation for most affordable pharmacy degrees. College Affordability Guide gave the school a score of 97, only 0.2 below the first-ranked college.

Development of the Texas A&M graduate program in pharmaceutical sciences began in 2016. Leading the charge to initiate the graduate program was Mansoor Khan, RPH, PhD, professor and vice dean of the College Station campus, interim head of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and director of the Formulations and Drug Delivery Core Laboratory. He had shepherded a similar process at Texas Tech University in 1999.

Khan said the addition of the PhD will elevate the graduate program and help Texas A&M recruit strong faculty members and turn out solid researchers. “To my knowledge, every graduate has found employment within three months of graduating,” he said. “There is a tremendous need for this program, and we are thrilled to have received the approval.”

— Kelli Reynolds

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