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Dr. Lydia López Aguilera, Director of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley/UT Austin College of Pharmacy and Clinical Associate Professor in the UTRGV Cooperative Pharmacy Program, has added another level of expertise to an impressive list of accomplishments by achieving board certification in ambulatory care pharmacy from the National Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS). Aguilera is a native of Edinburg.

Photograph By PAUL CHOUY

Visitors to Dr. Lydia López Aguilera’s office are greeted by a wall full of framed educational accomplishments, recognitions of her achievements and thankful notes from her pharmacy students at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Now, at age 60, the director of the UTRGV/UT Austin Cooperative Pharmacy Program has added another level of expertise in her field by achieving board certification in ambulatory care pharmacy from the National Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS). “Gaining the certification builds your foundation of knowledge. It’s a review, but you also learn new things – and knowledge is power – allowing you to not only help your patient, but also your team of doctors, nurses, dieticians and other healthcare team members,” said Aguilera, a Clinical Associate professor who has headed UTRGV’s cooperative program since 2010. The announcement of her latest achievement was made on Thursday, August 31, 2017. Board certification through the BPS is recognized as the highest standard for determining which pharmacists are qualified to contribute at advanced levels of practice.

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UTRGV’s Dr. Lydia López Aguilera gains highest standard of certification for pharmacists

By GAIL FAGAN

Visitors to Dr. Lydia López Aguilera’s office are greeted by a wall full of framed educational accomplishments, recognitions of her achievements and thankful notes from her pharmacy students at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Now, at age 60, the director of the UTRGV/UT Austin Cooperative Pharmacy Program has added another level of expertise in her field by achieving board certification in ambulatory care pharmacy from the National Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS).

“Gaining the certification builds your foundation of knowledge. It’s a review, but you also learn new things – and knowledge is power – allowing you to not only help your patient, but also your team of doctors, nurses, dieticians and other healthcare team members,” said Aguilera, a Clinical Associate professor who has headed UTRGV’s cooperative program since 2010.

The announcement of her latest achievement was made on Thursday, August 31, 2017.

Board certification through the BPS is recognized as the highest standard for determining which pharmacists are qualified to contribute at advanced levels of practice.

Board Certified Ambulatory Care Pharmacists (BCACPs) focus primarily on the special needs of patients who may have concurrent illnesses and take multiple medications, and who often administer these drugs themselves or with the assistance of a caregiver at home.

The BPS website says 148 pharmacists in Texas have an Ambulatory Care Board Certification, and only eight in the Valley have that certification.

Dr. M. Lynn Crismon, Dean of the UT Austin College of Pharmacy, said BPS board-certified pharmacists stand out as the most qualified to take on today’s expanding expectations of patients, physicians, employers and others who recognize the increasing need for a team approach to healthcare.

“Through board certification, as well as her other accomplishments, Dr. Aguilera has demonstrated her ability to provide comprehensive medication management for people with chronic disease states in the context of a team-based model,” he said. “We believe that innovative, integrated team-based care is the future of healthcare, and we are excited that we have faculty such as Dr. Aguilera to help prepare student pharmacists serve in direct patient care roles in transformed healthcare systems.”

UTRGV’s Dean of the College of Health Affairs, Dr. Michael Lehker, said Aguilera’s ambulatory care board certification is very relevant to the South Texas region, and represents another example of her drive for excellence and elevation of the program.

“She is also a mentor to faculty and students, a cheerleader for the program and our students, a recruiter, a consoler, a provider and much more,” Lehker said. “Her inexhaustible enthusiasm and energy are the driving forces in making it possible to provide opportunities for talented students in the Valley to attend one of the leading institutions of pharmacy education in the nation. Dr. Aguilera and her team breathe and live student success.”

Valley Roots and Role Models

Aguilera’s dedication to her profession and to helping train new pharmacists to serve South Texas began in the Valley.

“I had some really good role models – the pharmacists in my community,” said Aguilera, naming a long list of well-known Valley pharmacists. “Growing up with asthma and allergies, I was at their pharmacies weekly and they took good care of me and my family.”

A native of Edinburg, she attended then-Pan American University, and graduated with a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Houston in 1980. She returned to the Valley and became a practicing pharmacist and independent pharmacy owner for many years, but through her role as a preceptor for pharmacy school students, she learned to love teaching.

“I enjoyed the feedback from the students; I enjoyed teaching and learning from them about their needs,” she said.

Aguilera returned to school at age 50 to earn a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Florida, and began teaching full time in 2009 at then-UTPA’s cooperative pharmacy program.

Building an Exemplary Program

The cooperative program, which has students taking their pre-pharmacy courses at UTRGV, two years of pharmacy coursework at UT Austin’s College of Pharmacy and returning to UTRGV for their final coursework and rotations, is helping to build a talented pharmacy workforce for South Texas that understands the language and culture of the community.

“We know our people and our needs because they are our families, they are our neighbors,” Aguilera said.
Since its inception in 2001, the program has graduated more than 100 pharmacists as of 2016, with 80 percent of those graduates staying in the Valley or Laredo.

In 2013, the program was lauded by Excelencia in Education as a top doctoral program in the nation in advancing education achievement for Latino students in higher education.

In 2016, U.S. News and World Report ranked the UT Austin Pharmacy program from which her students graduate as the third-best in the nation.

Training Culturally-Sensitive Pharmacists

Aguilera carries her passion to develop pharmacists who are sensitive to the community’s needs into her daily classroom and research.

She has a special interest in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) – therapies that are outside the scope of scientific medicine but may be used in the treatment of disease and ill health. Examples include natural products, yoga, deep breathing, chiropractic manipulation, meditation and others.

“I prepare a lecture for my students on beliefs and herbs that are used by the Hispanic population here,” said Aguilera, who has surveyed many Valley yerberías to learn more about what illnesses people seek treatment for and which products or alternative treatments are being recommended and used.

“The Texas Medical Association has recommended that physicians ask patients about their use of CAM in therapy. So I tell my students to be proactive in discussing CAM treatments with patients, but to ask with an attitude of tolerance and respect,” she said.

Certified in medication therapy management (MTM), Aguilera also provides MTM training to her students and other Valley pharmacists. As a pharmacist and MTM, she serves as a consultant with the Salud y Vida program, which provides chronic care management for qualified RGV participants with uncontrolled diabetes but no insurance.

As a first-generation college graduate herself, and knowing the financial burden of going to pharmacy school, Aguilera has set up scholarships at UTRGV to support the program’s students.

“Every day, I can’t wait to get here because I know I am going to meet another student who is right where I was, who might need guidance, support and a role model,” Aguilera said. “That is what I do to help them reach their goals and be successful.”

SOUTH TEXAS COLLEGE TO HOST WOMEN’S RETREAT CONFERENCE RETREAT EVENT ON THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2017 AT COOPER CENTER IN MCALLEN

South Texas College will be hosting its women’s retreat event “Know Your Status” dedicated to raising awareness on a host of critical issues including sexually transmitted infections, HIV/AIDS sexual health, mental health issues and self-care.

STC, alongside substance and HIV prevention programs, cordially invite the public to take part in the women’s retreat scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017 in the Cooper Center from 8am-5pm. The event is free to the public. Breakfast, lunch, refreshments and giveaways will be provided for women throughout the day.

Keynote speaker Dr. Sandra Ledesma, Assistant Professor at South Texas College Education Department will be presenting her topic “Untitled, Unlabeled and Uniquely You”.

“Every day offers an opportunity for self-growth, empowerment and the courage to let go of fear in order to recreate the woman you are meant to be,” said Ledesma.

The Women’s Retreat will give them the opportunity to hear from experts in fields such as violence prevention, sexual reproductive system, HIV and learn about the myths about sexual reproductive health, according to STC’s Counseling and Student Disability Services.

The Women’s Retreat is designed to encourage women to spend the time for self-care and take advantage of a wonderful forgiveness workshop as well as end the day with laughter yoga.

STC recently received the “Know Your Status” grant designed to educate the community about sexual health and empowerment. The $24,000 grant was awarded to STC by the UTRGV School of Medicine Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which is given to Minority Serving Institutions in Partnership w/ Community Based Organizations (MSI/CBO).

To register for the event, visit https://www.southtexascollege.edu/info/womensretreat/.For more information, call (956) 872-2530 or emailmavila2@southtexascollege.edu.

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José Gómez contributed to this article.

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