Road to Pharmacy paves path for students
Posted: 09/23/2010
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Though they traveled different roads, three prominent area pharmacists said it was hard work and determination that led them to their successful careers.

The UTPA/UT Austin Cooperative Pharmacy Program hosted its first Road To Pharmacy School event Sept. 21. Pictured left to right are: Yasar Tasnif, clinical assistant professor of the Cooperative Pharmacy Program; Jesus Saenz, co-owner of Saenz Pharmacy; Elvia Saenz, co-owner of Saenz Pharmacy; Ramiro Barrera, owner of Richard's Pharmacy; Lydia Aguilera, interim director and clinical assistant professor of the Cooperative Pharmacy Program; Gilbert Tovar, owner of Lindberg Pharmacy; Carven Lumang, lecturer of the Cooperative Pharmacy Program; and Patricia L. Gonzales, associate professor of the Cooperative Pharmacy Program.

On Tuesday, Sept. 21, Elvia Saenz, Gilbert Tovar and Ramiro Barrera shared their life stories with students attending The University of Texas-Pan American who are interested in pursuing careers in pharmacy and urged them to work hard and not let anyone deter them from achieving their dreams during the University's first Road to Pharmacy School event.

"If you really want to accomplish how to be a pharmacist all you need is ambition and determination and the ganas to want to do it," said Saenz, who owns the Saenz Pharmacy chain with her husband Jesus.

The UTPA/UT Austin Cooperative Pharmacy Program hosted the Road to Pharmacy School event at the Student Union Theater to inform students about their options in going to pharmacy school and encourage them to consider a career in that field. This is the first time the program has held this presentation and hopes to continue it, said its organizers.

Even though the cooperative program recruits about 12 high school graduates and accepts some transfer students for the program each year, there are six pharmacy schools in the state that have more seats available for students, said Lydia Aguilera, interim director and a clinical assistant professor of the cooperative program.

"We have so many students on this campus who would like to be a pharmacist, but they just don't know where to start," Aguilera said. "We're here to give them a road map."

About 100 students attended the hour-and-a-half-long session where they heard Saenz, Tovar and Barrera share their life stories and words of encouragement and received information about requirements for entering pharmacy school, internship and externship opportunities and career options.

Saenz told the group how she spent her summers migrating with her family to California for work through her senior year of high school and determined that she needed to go to college to obtain a better job.

"Everything is possible if you decide you want to do it," she said.

Tovar, owner of Lindberg Pharmacy, said he had to overcome rejection from his older siblings from his father's previous marriages and other hardships to become a pharmacist.

"In my high school we were taught if someone else can accomplish something you can also," Tovar said. "Because of my situation I started working hard, studying hard and trying to become self sufficient at a young age. It's never too late to start these things, you have to have faith in yourself."

Barrera, owner of Richard's Pharmacy, said he didn't let words of discouragement from some of his professors in pharmacy school keep him from pursuing his dreams.

"You are in charge of your own destiny, nobody else is going to control it," Barrera said.

All the pharmacists urged students to study hard, prioritize their time and obtain internships to see if a career in pharmacy is for them.

After the presentations, students said they were impressed by the pharmacists' stories and are considering careers in pharmacy.

"It inspires me to work harder," Esther Park, an 18-year-old freshman said. "I think it's just cool how you learn what the drugs are and their interactions. Technology is so great right now. I think it's cool to improve society."

John Ryan Flores, an 18-year-old freshman enrolled in the cooperative program, said the event allowed him to learn more about the different types of careers in pharmacy and made him realize he will have to work hard to achieve his goals.

"It popped in my head I really have to focus," Flores said.

The Cooperative Pharmacy Program offers a six-year curriculum program to prepare students to obtain a doctor of pharmacy degree. Students are either recruited from high school or can transfer in to the cooperative program once they complete their pre-pharmacy training at UTPA. Students take preparatory courses at UTPA for the first two years, then begin their pharmacy school courses at UT Austin's College of Pharmacy. They complete their training at UTPA.

For more information about the Cooperative Pharmacy Program, visit