Tuesday, August 17, 1999


By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
A task force charged with studying options for the University
of Hawaii's School of Public Health holds a public forum to
gather opinions on the school's future. The task force board
consists of, from left, Clayton Chong, director of oncology
at St. Francis Medical Center; Julia Frohlich, president of
the Blood Bank of Hawaii and a former UH regent; chairman
Kenji Sumida, former president of the East-West Center;
Dianne Plotts, general partner Mid-East and China Trading
and a former regent; and Leroy Laney, economics professor
at Hawaii Pacific University.

Leaders support
school of health

For nearly five hours they tell
a task force hearing that a lack
of leadership, not money,
is the problem

By Susan Kreifels


It's not about money, it's about poor leadership.

That message was repeated last night at a public hearing on the future of the University of Hawaii-Manoa School of Public Health.

But this time it didn't come from angry students and faculty, it came from top officials like U.S. Reps. Patsy Mink and Neil Abercrombie, state Health Director Bruce Anderson, state Sen. Rod Tam and Rep. Cynthia Thielen, who strongly supported keeping the school open rather than the administration's proposal to make it a program under the school of medicine.

For close to five hours, about 40 people testified before a five-person task force appointed by UH President Kenneth Mortimer. Only one supported closing the school, which next June will become the first of its kind to lose accreditation. Critics believe the administration is deliberately letting the school die.

"This school of public health has got to be the one place we do not make sacrifices," Mink said. "It's not a question of money."

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Congresswoman Patsy Mink was among those who voiced
strong support to keep the School of Public Health open.
Only one person testified in favor of closing the school.

Mink said Sen. Daniel Inouye held a meeting yesterday about the importance of meeting the cultural demands of Hawaii's unique community, and without a local school of public health, "we could miss the target."

Abercrombie said his office is pursuing up to $65 million in untapped federal funding that could be used by the school. "All that is lacking is leadership," Abercrombie said. "This is death by slow academic strangulation."

Hawaii has been named the healthiest state for two years in a row because of public health, Anderson said.

"The school should not be preserved as is, it needs to be a center of excellence," Anderson said. "Today there are even greater challenges" like biological terrorism and teen-age drug abuse.

Anderson said the Department of Health could easily absorb half the school's graduates. Last spring 167 students were enrolled in the school, paying about $444,000 in tuition.

The school also could be a partner in benefitting from $1.3 billion over the next 25 years from a lawsuit against tobacco companies, Anderson said.

"Money is not a major problem," Anderson said. "It is lack of leadership."

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Congressman Neil Abercrombie was among those who
voiced strong support to keep the School of Public Health
open. Only one person testified in favor of closing the school.

Geri Marullo, president and chief executive officer of Child and Family Service and former deputy health director, said public health experts from the state and the school provided invaluable services to the people of Kauai after Hurricane Iniki. "Long after our mainland help went home, it was our homegrown who dealt with and helped solve the long-term concerns," she said. "If that hurricane had hit the island of Oahu with the same vengeance, we would not be debating the need for the school of public health today."

Kenji Sumida, former president of the East-West Center and chairman of the task force, surprised a number of people when he said the group would not make recommendations to Mortimer on the future of the school, only try to sort out "the credible information so the Board of Regents can make an informed decision."

Several testifiers said they understood from Mortimer's announcement on the task force that it would make recommendations to the administration. Sumida also said last night that the administration had requested hearings be held on other islands as well, but a shortage of time made that difficult. He said if there was a demand for more hearings, the task force could reconsider.

Sumida hopes to complete the work of the task force by early September so regents can act at their meeting Sept. 9-10. The school's accrediting body said it would reconsider reaccrediting the school if the university made a commitment by Sept. 15.

About 25 people protested that the task force was holding only one hearing, limiting poor people's access.

"They have many children to feed, they can't be here," said Ku'umeaaloha Gomes, a native Hawaiian who is helping organize hearings elsewhere, including the Waianae Public Library at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 23.

One loss will be more than $300,000 in federal funds for the Maternal and Child Health Training Program. Only accredited schools are eligible.

The only person to testify in favor of closing the school was Dr. Donald F.B. Char, former director of Student Health Services and professor emeritus in pediatrics at UH. Char said an integrated program between the school of medicine and public health would be better than the "traditionally separated, often adversarial" relationship between the two.

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