Dean Crismon on the Start of the New Semester

August 24, 2020

Greetings Longhorn Pharmacy Alumni and Friends,

This coming Wednesday will be the first day of classes for the fall semester, but we’re approaching them in a most unusual manner. As you’re aware, we closed down in mid spring and went totally online, and we immediately began planning for the fall semester so that we could conduct our classes in an effective fashion while keeping the members of our community safe.

We’re approaching the fall with hybrid models for some classes, with small groups of students rotating on campus, and some classes are taught totally online. But there are some things that cannot be taught without having students and faculty in close proximity. So in some our our skills labs, we’ll be having students come on campus in very small groups, and using maximum personal protection equipment as needed, to assure that students, faculty, and teaching staff are totally safe.

We did that a couple of weeks ago bringing P2s in for total immersion laboratory experiences in compounding and immunization training that had to be canceled in mid March, and that went forward in a most effective manner. We started New Student Orientation last Wednesday—also doing that with four cohorts of incoming student pharmacists that could appropriately social distance—and we had what I think was a very successful New Student Orientation.

I want to thank each and every one of you who donated to support our P1 student pharmacists so we could purchase equipment and supplies for skills labs, white coats, and other materials that they need for the P1 semester. Not only are you enhancing their safety, but also decreasing their expenses as they enter pharmacy school. Thanks to all of you—alumni, friends, faculty, staff, and our College of Pharmacy Alumni Association—for this generous support.

Faculty, graduate students, and research staff have also been busy. Our research labs were closed for about two months in the spring, except for COVID-related research. A number of our faculty immediately started COVID-related research, ranging from high throughput screening of molecules for potential activity against the novel coronavirus, drug development for potential therapeutic agents, and outreach to homeless communities by providing them smart phones for education, screening, and referral services to that at-risk population. We began phasing wet labs back in in late May, first with a 30-40% occupancy, and now we have two shifts running per day so that we have most of our faculty, graduate students, and research staff back at work.

We know as we go into the fall semester that we may have to change things at a moment’s notice, depending on the infection rate in the Austin community. We are prepared to do that, and prepared to do whatever we need to do in order to provide our students with a high-quality education that is consistent with the tradition of The University of Texas at Austin, but doing so in a safe manner for all members of our community.

Please take care of yourselves and those around you, stay safe, and Hook ‘em Horns!

Dean Crismon's electronic signature.

M. Lynn Crismon, Pharm.D.
James T. Doluisio Regents Chair and Behrens Centennial Professor