There’s an innovative spirit to be found in our first class of graduating pharmacists — one reason why I have such admiration for them.
As pioneers and trailblazers in a new school, they now have a comprehensive education in health care teamwork, and a degree that will allow them to care for their communities.
Six years ago, the UNT System College of Pharmacy was nothing more than an idea. There were no faculty, no facility, no curriculum – nothing but a promise to future students and the North Texas community that we would work together to create something extraordinary.
The need was there, certainly. Hospitals and pharmaceutical companies wanted a pharmacy school in North Texas.
There were pharmacy graduate programs in Houston, Lubbock, Tyler, Austin and San Antonio, but none to serve the North Texas community, which has about 7 million residents, more than 22,000 hospital beds and nearly 600 community pharmacies. The population is aging and the demand is growing for pharmacists to take an active role in managing the medications their patients are taking.
Answering the call were leaders such as state Senator Jane Nelson, Representative Charlie Geren, Chancellor Lee Jackson and Brint Ryan, now the Chairman of the UNT System Board of Regents. Together, they collaborated to create the only pharmacy school in North Texas, and the only one in the entire state located on the main campus of a health science center.
That was in 2011. Two years later, we opened our doors to the class of students who are graduating this weekend. They were selected from more than 350 applicants.
We’ve accomplished so much together:
• Since the school opened in 2013, our pharmacy faculty members have brought in more than $24 million in research funding. Researchers are looking at whether grapes can prevent cataracts, how to stem the epidemic of opioid abuse and whether better medication management can prevent costly and deadly errors for patients.
• By the end of next year, many of the classrooms and laboratories for the College of Pharmacy will move into our new Interdisciplinary Research and Education Building alongside the planned School of Medicine, which Texas Christian University and UNTHSC plan to open in 2019, pending accreditation.
• We have affiliation agreements with community pharmacies – such as Walmart, Walgreens and CVS – and institutional pharmacies at hospitals such as JPS Health Network, HCA Healthcare, Methodist Dallas Medical Center and Texas Health Resources.
• Most significantly, 68 of our students are graduating into the community as new pharmacists. And our first class looks like Texas; 32 percent are from underrepresented minority groups.
Together, we are turning our shared vision of defining and creating the providers of the future into the new reality. Providers from UNTHSC are those who take care of patients, tackle public health challenges, or conduct scientific research. They are emotionally intelligent, comfortable with technology and capable of working as teams to make patients healthier and care safer.
Crucial milestones are still to come. Next month, Dr. Charles Taylor will become dean of the College of Pharmacy, bringing with him a commitment to community, innovation, quality and excellence. This summer, the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education will determine our accreditation status. That will be a shared victory not only for our students, staff, faculty and supporters, but also for the North Texas community.
Our vision is to define and produce the providers of the future as One University. Our pharmacy students who took a chance on a new school are bringing our vision to fruition. They have my gratitude and appreciation.
Dr. Michael R. Williams