UTEP to introduce School of Pharmacy

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UTEP to introduce School of Pharmacy

The first full stand-alone School of Pharmacy is planned to launch in the fall of 2017.

The first full stand-alone School of Pharmacy is planned to launch in the fall of 2017.

Andres Martinez

The first full stand-alone School of Pharmacy is planned to launch in the fall of 2017.

Andres Martinez

Andres Martinez

The first full stand-alone School of Pharmacy is planned to launch in the fall of 2017.

Alonso Moreno, Copy Editor

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In continued efforts to improve the university and its educational catalog, UTEP is preparing the final steps for the introduction of a new School of Pharmacy.

UTEP is planning on launching its first full stand-alone School of Pharmacy in   the fall of 2017 to replace its current co-operative program with the University of Texas at Austin.

The university has already named the founding dean for the school, José O Rivera, Pharm. D., who currently serves as a professor of clinical pharmacy and the director of the current cooperative pharmacy program.

Rivera said that the current program is not only limited, but also represents a disparity in the potential benefits for UTEP.

“Currently, we have a cooperative pharmacy program between UTEP and UT Austin, but it’s limited in the number of students we can admit,” Rivera said. “We can only admit 12 students per year; they do pre-pharmacy at UTEP, but then they have to relocate to Austin for the first two years of the program, then they come back and finish the last 2 years in the program with us.”

Furthermore, the program is not financially viable for students or the university.

“Financially it’s not viable, long term it has major limitations,” Rivera said. “All the revenue, once you are in the pharmacy program, goes to Austin, all the expenses are UTEP’s and that’s a mismatch.”

The first cohort is expected to start with about 25 to 30 students, but Rivera is hopeful that the program will expand to possibly cater to more students, who might be interested in the field of pharmacy.

The school will also seek to change the current way students are selected for pharmacy programs.

Currently, the criteria used for admission relies heavily on standardized testing in order to better assess the student candidate. According to Rivera, this is not a bad way to select students, but it will not be perfect to find a more rounded student, specially Latino students.

“The test (known as PCAT) can be somewhat biased against first-generation English-speaking students, so for that reason we are not going to do that,” Rivera said. “We will still look at it, but we are interested in the individual as a whole.”

Rivera also said that the program aims to help with the disparity between the patients to pharmacists’ ratio.

“Here in the region, we have close to 60 pharmacists to 100,000 (citizens) in population, and in the state the average is about 90,” Rivera said. “If we look at that and we have about 800,000 in population, we are about 240 pharmacists short.”

Although the numbers may paint an alarming picture, the reality is that the field of pharmacy represents a fantastic opportunity for students.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, pharmacists earn a mean hourly wage of $56.96, and earn a mean annual wage of $118,470.

Forbes listed pharmacy manager as the number two highest paying, in-demand job in America. Only physician jobs were ranked above pharmacists in terms of job openings and salary.

Carla Stevenson, a junior business major, said that at one point she considered the current pharmacy program, but that she ultimately deterred it due to the financial costs.

“It’s great that it’s coming—a little late for me—but we all (students) know where the money is at,” Stevenson said. “Medical, and therefore pharmacy, are big ones, but once you realize the costs of a career in the field, it’s too much. Now that we will have a program here, more students will be able to pursue those careers.”

There is also disparity in the number of Latino pharmacists in the nation.

“When you look nationwide, only 4 percent of students in pharmacy are Latinos, whereas the US population is 17 percent, so we should be closer,” Rivera said.

Due to this disparity, there have been companies in the pharmaceutical industry that have approached the university interested in offering scholarships to Spanish-speaking students.

“They are interested (the companies) in hiring bilingual pharmacists that serve populations anywhere in the US, where there is a large Spanish-speaking community,” Rivera said.

Alonso Moreno may be reached at [email protected]

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