UH health school getsBy Susan Kreifels
This is make or break week for the University of Hawaii School of Public Health, and students, the community and the state Department of Health are rallying to keep it alive.
A five-person national accreditation team from the Council on Education for Public Health is reviewing the school, already on probation for the last two years.
"The notion was that things are on a spiral downward at the school," said D. William Wood, the school's interim dean since 1995.
Bruce Anderson, director of the state Department of Health, threw his support to the school in a letter to the team. Anderson offered to share lab-training space, use his department staff to teach at the school, and provide a research venue for the school's staff, Wood said.
In the letter, Anderson called the school a "vital resource" for the health and well-being of people in the state.
About 45 public health students held a rally last week on campus, Wood said. Students, alumni, and community members have met with the team, here for three days this week.
Frances Hallonquist, chief executive officer of Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children and the Pali Momi center, said the school's programs are important for developing future leaders who will be involved with community health issues such as health education, management and epidemiology.
Jim Manke, UH spokesman, said there are no plans to search for a permanent dean at the school. Past discussions on reorganizing the university have included shifting courses under the Public Health School to the medical school, but the idea never reached the Board of Regents.
The council will make its decision on accreditation in June.
The last review was in 1996. Some of the problems: no permanent dean since 1992, and Wood said the university is not advertising for one; budget cuts of about 30-32 percent since 1993; a decrease in staff of about 25 percent; and too little research.
The school sees 70-80 graduate students a year finish their degrees now, compared to an annual 150-200 in the past. There are currently 150 full-time students working on a master's or doctor's degree, and about 3,300 alumni, Wood said.
A staff of 30 in 1992 has dropped to about 23 full-time faculty.
Recent budgets have included money for personnel and nothing else. "We managed to scrape along and find ways to make ends meet," Wood said.
On a positive note, Wood said two of 16 hired on tenure tracks at the university this year went to public health.
One of them brought in $200,000 in research grants.
"They are high-caliber people," Wood said. "It's clear that whatever has gone on in the school, we can still attract good faculty."