Pharmacy school bill advances

Legislation to bring a pharmacy school to The University of Texas at Tyler passed a hurdle Thursday.

Senate Bill 566, which would make way for a proposed public-private partnership to create the pharmacy school funded by philanthropic donations and student tuition, passed out of the Senate.

Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, the bill's author, said the school would benefit Tyler's place as a regional medical center as the demand for health care professionals continues to grow.

"This school will help fulfill a critical regional demand for pharmacists in addition to providing greater access to deserving East Texas students," he said in a news release.

Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, co-authored the bill.

UT Tyler President Rod Mabry said the university is excited about the opportunity to add a pharmacy program to its Top 12 ranked nursing program. The nursing program was expanded by legislative action in 2005. Doctorate programs also were created for UT Tyler that year.

Business leaders expressed the need to establish a pharmacy school locally, Eltife said. Most qualified pharmacists come from outside Texas, he said. Businesses are challenged with hiring and retaining pharmacists, he said.

Brookshire Grocery Company President and Chief Executive Officer Rick Rayford said in the news release that the last two pharmacists his company interviewed were from Arizona and Virginia. Giving local students an opportunity to pursue a highly sought-after degree without leaving the area would benefit students and employers, he said.

Five public universities and one private university in Texas offer similar pharmacy programs.

The bill now heads to the House where Reps. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, David Simpson, R-Longview, and Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, authored similar legislation.

Patriot Talon reporter Rhiannon Holmes contributed to this report


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