Following approval of the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy officially joined the Texas A&M Health Science Center in April 2006. Classes for the first 70 students in the College, on the Texas A&M University-Kingsville campus, began in August 2006.
The Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy is named for District 35 Rep. Irma Lerma Rangel, chair of the House Higher Education Committee who long fought for the first professional school in South Texas and died of cancer in March 2003. A groundbreaking on the three-story, 63,000-square-foot facility – featuring wireless access and research laboratories – occurred the same month Rangel died, and the College was officially named after her in October 2004.
Admission into a pharmacy program is highly competitive. More than 180 colleges and schools nationwide, including Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy, offer the Pharm.D. as a first professional degree, according to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.
There are seven Texas colleges, including Texas Southern, Texas Tech, the University of Houston, the University of North Texas System, the University of the Incarnate Word and the University of Texas-Austin. The need for trained pharmacy professionals has exploded due to the rapid growth of the health care and pharmaceutical industries, especially for the growing geriatric population. A shortfall of as many as 157,000 pharmacists nationwide is predicted by the year 2020, according to the Pharmacy Manpower Project Inc. A report by the Texas Department of Health Education and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board indicates the Texas-Mexico border region has a population-to-pharmacist ratio of 1,700-to-1, 32 percent above the statewide ratio.
Still, opening the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy was a challenge. A bill creating the pharmacy school was passed in 2001, and tuition revenue bonds were authorized to finance building construction. University officials asked for about $13 million in emergency appropriations from the Legislature for operational costs for the 2006-2007 biennium. Although $10 million was included in the supplemental appropriations bill, at adjournment, funding was denied.
In 2004, the Texas A&M System Board of Regents committed $3.1 million to hire the initial cohort of faculty and prepare for full accreditation for the pharmacy school. Again, though, a lack of state funding for operations delayed the planned fall 2005 opening until fall 2006.
The Texas A&M Health Science Center officially merged with Texas A&M University in 2013. Even though the main campus is physically located in Kingsville, more than six hours from College Station, the College is proud to be part of Aggieland with its rich history and traditions.
After an increasing need for additional capacity each year – with 647 applicants vying for 87 spots in Kingsville in 2013 alone – the college opened a branch campus in Bryan-College Station. In fall 2014, 87 student pharmacists joined the Kingsville campus, and for the first time in the college’s history, an additional 33 students began coursework in Bryan-College Station. The college will add 30 to 35 students to the Bryan-College Station campus each year until reaching the full, four-year complement.
Faculty within the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy and Health Science Center components benefit from collaboration opportunities for basic science and translational research. In addition, the wealth of library resources the Health Science Center already has in place will serve to support both the educational and research missions of the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy.
Besides attracting future pharmacists, the College brings pharmaceutical companies in to study and develop drugs for diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. And, there are opportunities for cooperation between the United States and Mexico to improve border health care.