UH medical school shuts native Hawaiian center
Federal funding that supported the facility was cut in 2005 after 16 years of service
Lack of federal funds has forced the closure of the Native Hawaiian Center of Excellence at the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine, the UH announced.
The center will close at the end of this month, and its executive director, Dr. Benjamin Young, will retire, said UH spokesman Gregg Takayama.
The center was initiated in 1991 by Dr. Christian Gulbrandsen, then medical school dean, to improve health of native Hawaiians through research, education, service and training in medicine.
Other minority centers of excellence across the United States that were funded under the Title VII health-professions training program have closed or are scheduled to be closed because of federal funding cuts, Takayama said yesterday.
The UH center was federally funded through 2005. Its allocation that year was $741,000, and it survived last year on leftover funds, Takayama said. It has received no state money, he said.
Young, the first native Hawaiian certified by the American Board of Psychiatry, formerly was dean of students at the medical school.
He helped establish the Imi Ho'ola Program, a one-year premed curriculum for Hawaiians and Pacific islanders, and obtained $4.6 million in federal funds to create an endowed chair in Hawaiian medical research.
He was named a "living treasure of Hawaii" in 2005 by Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii. He has been director of the Native Hawaiian Center of Excellence since 1998 and "has worked tirelessly to advocate for increasing the number of native Hawaiians in medicine," according to UH.
He organized conferences in cultural competence, established the Kekuni Blaisdell, M.D., Lectureship Series, obtained funding for books and publications by native Hawaiian scholars and obtained funding to support Hawaiian-language medical textbooks and Hawaiian medical history.
He also established a fellowship program to increase the number of native Hawaiian faculty members, started a native Hawaiian community-based research elective for first-year medical students, produced native Hawaiian oral histories of prominent native Hawaiian leaders and established a comprehensive database of native Hawaiian doctors.
"We at the Department of Native Hawaiian Health are extremely proud of the center's many accomplishments and are sorry to see the loss of this vital program," Dr. Marjorie Mau, department chairwoman, said in a news release.
"We are committed to continuing the mission and values of the Native Hawaiian Center of Excellence, and have moved forward to support many of the center's programs in the department," she said.