GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Dr. Edwin Cadman, former University of Hawaii medical school dean, received a hug yesterday from a well-wisher before ceremonies dedicating the school's bioscience building in Kakaako.
Med school completes turnaround
The visionary behind UH’s state-of-the-art center says it can be a "brain gain" for Hawaii
The new University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine at Kakaako is the best of the nation's 125 current medical schools -- even "more so" than he envisioned, says Dr. Edwin Cadman.
"I'm proud, the students are proud and the faculty is proud," the school's former dean said yesterday while strolling to the education building after "Dream Leaves," a sculpture by artist Ed Carpenter, and the bioscience building were dedicated on the grounds facing Ilalo Street.
Cadman, who resigned as dean in June because of a neuro-degenerative disorder called primary progressive aphasia, received two standing ovations from about 500 community, government and UH leaders, faculty and students attending the ceremony.
In brief remarks, Cadman recalled that the financially troubled school was threatened with closure when former UH President Kenneth Mortimer recruited him from the Yale-New Haven Hospital and Health System to turn it around.
The state's economy was in a slump, and there was a lot of talk about diversifying with a biotech industry, which had to be clustered around research as part of the medical school, he said.
Developing a strategic plan over six months, he said he asked everybody he met, from neighbors to a cabdriver, what they would like the school to become.
"Never once did anyone say they would like it to be closed," he said, drawing a big laugh.
Cadman said he became "the cheerleader" for those advocating research as a component of the medical school and began looking for a new site off the Manoa campus.
Then one day, he said, former Gov. Ben Cayetano took him to the 10th floor of the Gold Bond Building, pointed to a 10-acre site at Kakaako and told him, "I want you to build your medical school there."
The school moved forward, financed by the Legislature with $150 million from the tobacco settlement fund. The 140,000-square-foot education building opened to students in April, and researchers are moving into the just-completed 180,000-square-foot bioscience building.
"Extraordinary things happen in Hawaii," said Cadman, his voice breaking with emotion. "I want to be part of it as long as I can. I love my medical school and I love my state."
Many who supported and participated in the development, including Cayetano and his wife, were present for the dedication.
"Four years ago there was every reason to listen to those who said it (the new school) couldn't be done," said interim Dean Sam Shomaker. Fortunately, he said, decision-makers listened to another voice -- that of Cadman.
With leading UH research in biotechnology, the school can reverse the brain drain and be "a brain gain" for Hawaii, said Shomaker, citing "tremendous potential to dramatically expand research and technology in Hawaii."
Gov. Linda Lingle said she believes the UH medical school is "an important part of the state's future" and will play a role in the health of the world.
"We will remember sitting here when we hear of medical breakthroughs," she said.
Earlier in what Shomaker called "truly a historic day in the history" of the medical school, $2.5 million was given to the school by the American Lung Association of Hawaii, and $500,000 by the Hawaii Community Foundation.
The money will be used for two endowed faculty chairs in respiratory health and for respiratory disease research by Dr. Elizabeth Tam, pulmonologist.
The Lung Association sold its building at 245 N. Kukui St. for the medical school to help improve lung health in Hawaii, officials said. "One of the best kinds of gifts are those that give and give and give," said Sterling Yee, association vice president.