University of Houston satellite campus in Edinburg focuses on Hispanic pharmaceutical needs

EDINBURG — A partnership between Doctors Hospital at Renaissance and the College of Pharmacy at the University of Houston continues to educate future professionals on the pharmaceutical needs of the area.

The collaboration, which created a satellite campus in Edinburg, began in 2017 to localize health issues for the Hispanic population living within the Rio Grande Valley.

There was a need for expanding health care education and services to the Rio Grande Valley, UH College of Pharmacy Dean Lamar Pritchard said. And the partnership created a unique opportunity to address this issue.

The Rio Grande Valley satellite program offers a Hispanic Healthcare certificate, which incorporates the Spanish language and focuses on understanding the cultural connections between practice and the population within the area.

Understanding the community and its traditions facilitates a relationship of trust, Pritchard said. This leads to an increase in care as the population is more willing to seek out or receive care.

Those who earn the certificate tend to be more marketable, he said.

The program incorporates a three-plus-one model, where students spend three years at the main center in Houston and their fourth year in Edinburg, Assistant Dean Ron Ozuna said.

The satellite program encourages students to stay in the region, and helps retain many students who are from the Valley that leave for higher education, Ozuna said. At minimum, 15 spots are reserved for students from the Rio Grande Valley, with more being encouraged to enroll.

The program is geared toward fighting diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases that have high rates in the Valley, Ozuna said. A health care disparity exists in countering those issues within the Hispanic community and this initiative helps close the gap.

Although professionals teach students, everything is patient focused, Director of Pharmacy Gabby Garza said. The fusion of the academic and practitioner sectors is mutually beneficial, as interns and students provide assistance to professionals while gaining real-world experience. Both standards for academia and the industry must be met.

The pharmaceutical component compliments the different specializations within the hospital, from nursing to assessment to better care for the patient, Garza said.

The collaboration also allows DHR to provide better services to the community, while also drawing future professionals to the Rio Grande Valley.

“It is service oriented — it is what we want to do here,” Garza said. “We owe it to the community, we really do.”