POSTED: Monday, November 11, 2013 - 10:16am
UPDATED: Thursday, November 14, 2013 - 12:24pm
Edinburg, TX — The University of Texas-Pan American’s Cooperative Pharmacy Program is on the national stage. The program was recognized for its excellence in helping Latino students to succeed. Roxanne Lerma brings us the latest on the program named one of America’s top pharmacy models.
Alessandra Valdez always dreamed of following in her father’s footsteps and becoming a pharmacist. A special program at UTPA made that dream, a reality, “They really want to see you succeed and they do everything in their power to make sure that you do succeed and that you do finish. They do want to see every student graduate.”
The Cooperative Pharmacy Program is a select partnership between UTPA and UT-Austin. Dr. Lydia Aguilera, director of the coop, says the purpose is to train skilled pharmacists that understand the language and the culture of this region, “I think what they have learned when they were here is how much we need them and how much we need mentorship and how much we need to pay it forward.”
Valdez says the rigorous training she picked up in the coop has made her a better pharmacist, “I’ve built a rapport with my patients and when I have them tell me thank you so much for helping me and I really appreciate it. I feel so comfortable talking to you and nobody has helped me like you’ve helped me. It just makes everything worthwhile.”
The six-year program, which begins and ends at UTPA, allows students to combine their passion for helping the community with an affordable way to pay for school. Stephanie Martinez, UTPA Pharmacy Student, “I actually would say it has probably meant the difference between success and struggle. My eyes were opened to actually the responsibility that pharmacists have in the community that they practice. Many may not realize it but I feel we are the final gatekeepers in the health of our community.”
The program was a perfect change of pace for Damaso Navarro who dropped a job sitting in front of a computer all day in an effort to give back, “It’s allowed me to take care of the people that need it the most. That’s what the cooperative pharmacy program was originally designed for, to train students so that we could come back to the Valley and apply those skills that we had learned to help serve the community.”
Over 80% of the graduates have stayed in the Valley. At a ceremony in Washington D.C., Excelencia in Education named the CPP as America’s top program for increasing Latino student achievement at the graduate level. UTPA was chosen from among 165 programs in 22 states. Dr. Aguilera says the award is confirmation the coop is fulfilling its mission, “Our little program 12 students a year a model for the nation. The success of our program is the success of our students.”
And the Valley community reaps the benefits. Reporting for UTPA and Newscenter 23, I’m Roxanne Lerma.
Students complete two years of coursework here, move to UT-Austin for two years, and finally return to the Valley for the final couple years of the meticulous program. Since 2001, the program has graduated 68 pharmacists.