Nidia Villarreal, president and owner of Med Aid Pharmacy/Medical Equipment, is keeping the memory of her husband, John Villarreal, alive by starting the first endowed scholarship for the cooperative pharmacy program between The University of Texas-Pan American and The University of Texas at Austin.
Starting this fall, the John Villarreal Endowed Scholarship will assist pharmacy students in the program. The scholarship was established through the UTPA Foundation with $5,000, and funds will be added annually.
"We are very pleased that local pharmacies such as Med Aid have chosen to make a financial investment in our students," said Roland S. Arriola, UTPA vice president for External Affairs. "We need more local businesses to take an interest in our students and the University because we help create future pharmacists, doctors, lawyers, scientists and engineers, who many of them will return and give back to their communities."
Villarreal was a local pharmacist and businessman in the Rio Grande Valley who died in October 2001. He was a 1985 graduate of the UT Austin College of Pharmacy.
Villarreal was very proud to start the scholarship fund in her husband's name. With the help of their children - Alexandria Nicole, 10; Victoria Leonor, 8; Alicia Marie, 5; and Juliet Ann, 3 - and friends and family, they hope to honor his hard work and dedication in pharmacy through the scholarship.
"My husband was loved by everyone in the community, and he was very respected in the pharmacy community," Villarreal said. "He was a humble man, and I know he would have been proud of starting this scholarship. This is a nice way to memorialize his life."
Villarreal said through the endowed scholarship, she hopes to create a connection between the pharmacy students and help them learn to appreciate the independent pharmacies in the Valley.
Dr. William McIntyre, assistant dean of the UTPA cooperative doctorate pharmacy program, is appreciative to the local pharmacy for its contribution.
"We are pretty excited about the endowment because they are being very supportive of our students," McIntyre said. "This is the type of community support from the pharmacy community we need to make the program successful here."
McIntyre said incoming students to the program will benefit from this endowment. In its second year at UTPA, the cooperative pharmacy program currently has 14 students in the program. Next year, another 12 will be added.
"So many of our students have to come to UTPA and support their education and families at the same time," McIntyre said. "I think financial support is key to guaranteeing success in our students."
The program's goal is to alleviate the shortage of pharmacists in the Valley, which is currently at a ratio of 40 per 100,000 population. In other parts of Texas, the ratio is 80 per 100,000.
The program offers a six-year curriculum leading to a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree between both campuses. After the students have ended their fourth year in Austin, they will return to UTPA to finish their last two years of training and clinical experience before obtaining the pharmacy degree from UT Austin.
"I hope these students remember us after they receive their degrees and come back to help the community," Villarreal said.