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RGV Satellite Program Signing
Participating in the signing ceremony establishing a Rio Grande Valley Satellite Program of UH College of Pharmacy (UHCOP) at Doctors Hospital Renaissance (DHR) were R. Armour Forse, M.D., Ph.D., DHR chief academic officer; F. Lamar Pritchard, Ph.D., R.Ph., UHCOP dean; Bruce Jones, Ph.D., UH vice provost for Academic Programs; Carlos J. Cardenas, M.D., DHR chief administrative officer and chairman of the board; and Gavino Garza, R.Ph. ('81), DHR director of Pharmacy.

UHCOP, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance Open Satellite Program in Rio Grande Valley

Academic, Clinical Collaboration Aimed at Training Pharm.D. Students, Alleviating Health Care Professional Shortage, Expanding Services to Patients in Rapidly Growing Region

In a signing ceremony June 27, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance Health System and the University of Houston committed to launching a satellite program for the University of Houston College of Pharmacy (UHCOP).

The UHCOP Rio Grande Valley (RGV) satellite program will serve as a major teaching site for the college’s Professional Pharmacy Hispanic Healthcare Certificate Program — the first program of its kind in the nation. The certificate program is designed to help close disparity gaps in health care in the Rio Grande Valley by being responsive to the unique health beliefs, practices and cultural and linguistic needs of the region.

The Rio Grande Valley has long experienced a shortage of health professionals, with particular difficulty in recruiting and retaining primary care and specialist physicians, nurses, physician assistants and clinical pharmacists. Poverty, remoteness, lack of an academic health educational center, and cultural and language barriers all contribute to the difficulty in recruiting and retaining health care professionals to the region.

"DHR’s new partnership with the University of Houston College of Pharmacy demonstrates our shared commitment to providing health care professionals in the region. We are faced with the growing need for pharmacy services within our own health care system and in the local community," said Dr. R. Armour Forse, DHR chief academic officer. "By training these pharmacists side-by-side with the UT Rio Grande Valley medical students and residents in our hospital, they will graduate well equipped to work in team-based health care and provide the high quality of patient-centered pharmacy care needed for the Valley."

UHCOP established a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with South Texas College in McAllen in 2015, which offers students in the Rio Grande Valley a streamlined pathway to earn a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.). The MOU provides academic advising support and services for the pre-pharmacy program students at South Texas College.

To expand upon the MOU, UH sought to establish a satellite program at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, the area’s foremost teaching hospital. Through their experiential rotations at DHR, Pharm.D. students will be trained in a team-based approach with medical students as well as students from other health care professions.

This collaborative new program will produce more well-trained clinical pharmacists to provide the essential primary and preventative health care services needed by citizens of the Rio Grande Valley. The program also allows UHCOP to meet the expanded Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education Standards 2016 guidelines surrounding Interprofessional Education requirements.

"The University of Houston has always been committed to connecting with the community," said Paula Myrick Short, UH senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. "By expanding the College of Pharmacy program in the Rio Grande Valley through this partnership, UH has the opportunity to bring patient-centered pharmaceutical care to a region with one of the most severe shortages of clinical pharmacists in the nation."

The population-to-pharmacist ratio in border counties is about twice that of non-border counties, according to data from the Texas Statewide Health Coordinating Council. Recent data presented by the Walgreens Corp. shows that the RGV has one of the most severe shortages of clinical pharmacists in the nation.

"The role of clinical pharmacists and pharmacy technicians continues to grow here at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance. From discharge counseling, therapeutic drug monitoring and medication therapy management to collaborative practices with physicians, DHR is committed to putting drug experts at the patient bedside," said Gavino Garza, Director of Pharmacy at DHR. "Fostering a new partnership with University of Houston College of Pharmacy further reinforces the commitment DHR Health System has to our patients, community and to education."

Doctors Hospital at Renaissance Health System (DHR) is a 530-bed physician-owned health system that offers some of the most comprehensive medical care on the U.S. Southern border. From general acute care services and preventative health programs to graduate medical education at DHR, more than 700 physicians and 1,200 nurses dedicate themselves to offering a full continuum of care in over 70 different sub-specialties.

"With our significant Hispanic and Spanish-speaking populations in Texas, this program is part of our commitment to ensure that providing outstanding, safe and effective patient care is not hampered by language and cultural barriers," said F. Lamar Pritchard, Ph.D., R.Ph., UHCOP dean.