Saturday, June 7, 2003

Officials decry
‘broken health trust’

UH is faulted for not hiring an
associate dean of public health

Hawaii health leaders and alumni of the defunct University of Hawaii School of Public Health decry what they call broken promises by the UH administration to rebuild the school.

"We have a trail of broken promises ... a broken health trust in the state," said Nancy Partika, executive director of Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies and a member of the UH School of Public Health Alumni Association.

Partika and others on a panel at a Global Health Conference yesterday said UH officials have reneged on commitments to hire an associate dean of public health and increase the faculty to 14 from nine members.

Manoa Chancellor Peter Englert declined to release money to hire an associate dean after two searches were conducted and negotiations were under way with a prominent mainland epidemiologist, said Hali Robinett, vice president of the alumni association and search committee member.

Jim Manke, spokesman for the chancellor, said Englert did not see a priority for an associate dean in view of critical UH budget problems. Englert issued a statement saying he is working with DeWolfe Miller as the current leader in the downscaled public health department "and am confident that we are going in the right direction.

"We will rebuild the public health program to prominence step by step as our resources allow," he said, adding that he just signed off on two new faculty positions for the program that would raise the faculty total to 11.

Participants in the panel at the Hawai'i Convention Center said yesterday they believe it is more important to hire an associate dean to lead development of the school.

Robinett and Sonja Evensen, School of Public Health Alumni Association president, sent Englert a letter May 23 saying the association hoped an appointment would be imminent.

Responding May 28, Englert said: "I do not presently consider new leadership for public health as a high priority. In the long term, however, I do believe that separating public health from the medical school is a desirable option. It might be more appropriate to address the issue of leadership if and when that should occur."

Others participating in the panel yesterday were Timothy Juday, assistant professor in the UH Department of Public Health Sciences & Epidemiology, and Jane Kadohiro, state Health Department deputy director.

"It's absolutely critical that we have a strong School of Public Health" to provide professional training for public health workers in the state, Kadohiro said.

Juday recalled the closure of the public health school in 1999 by former UH President Kenneth Mortimer. It was reduced to a department in the medical school's Office of Public Health Studies.

On July 21, 2000, the UH Board of Regents approved reorganization of the School of Public Health, including hiring of an associate dean and more faculty members.

Former UH Interim Chancellor Deane Neubauer and Dr. Edwin Cadman, dean of the medical school, said at last year's Global Public Health conference that the administration was committed to rebuilding the public health school.

Neubauer said it was "unconscionable" for UH not to have such a school and that UH President Evan Dobelle's administration had pledged to restore it.

Juday said failure to appoint an associate dean has "significant ramifications" because accreditation of two programs in the department was based on acquiring that position.

Englert suggested any new public health positions could come out of $450,000 that he has released to the medical school. But Samuel Shomaker, the school's associate dean of academic affairs and education, said that money is to help hire medical school faculty members.

Cadman's contract with UH when he was recruited from Yale provided for 30 new faculty positions.

University of Hawaii


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