Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, University of Houston College of Pharmacy Open Satellite Program in Rio Grande Valley

(Pictured left to right) Carlos J. Cardenas, Chief Administrative Officer and Chairman of the Board, DHR; F. Lamar Pritchard, Dean of UH College of Pharmacy; Gavino Garza, Director of Pharmacy, DHR; Bruce Jones, Vice Provost for Academic Programs, UH; R. Armour Forse, Chief Academic Officer, DHR

Doctors Hospital at Renaissance Health System and the University of Houston are opening a satellite program for the University of Houston College of Pharmacy (UHCOP) in Edinburg, Texas. 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.”

The UHCOP established a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with South Texas College (STC) 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 STC.

To expand upon the MOU, the University of Houston sought to establish a satellite program at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, the area’s foremost teaching hospital. Through their rotation at DHR, 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 that the citizens of the Rio Grande Valley need. The program allows UHCOP to meet the expanded Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) Standards 2016 guidelines surrounding Interprofessional Education (IPE) 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 Corporation 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.”

“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, dean of the UH College of Pharmacy.