Wednesday, June 9, 1999

New roles seen
for UH med

As the public health school
loses accreditation, personnel
hope to add 3 key programs
to the medical school

By Helen Altonn


With the pending loss of accreditation for the School of Public Health, the University of Hawaii administration plans to reconfigure it as a program in the School of Medicine, says Senior Vice President Dean Smith.

"We're absolutely committed to a master's degree in public health," he said.

The reorganization plans also involve merging the Cancer Research Center and Pacific Biomedical Research Center with the John A. Burns Medical School, Smith said.

Public health students may end up graduating from a nonaccredited program if they can't complete their work in the next year, he acknowledged. "Students entering right now are not going to make it."

Even if a master's degree in public health program is established in the School of Medicine, it would take 18 months to get it accredited, according to the accrediting body.

Hawaii's congressional delegates, graduates, health officials and other supporters around the world had deluged UH and state officials with appeals to save the public health school.

But the Council on Education for Public Health last week revoked its accreditation, effective June 5, 2000. The school has been on probation three years.

In an e-mail from Kentucky where the council met, Public Health Interim Dean William Wood said:

"The basis of the revocation is that the university failed to address the serious deficiencies identified in the 1996 review of the school, namely, lack of a permanent dean, lack of faculty resources, lack of an operating budget and, most importantly, lack of support from the administration of the university."

"It's a dark day for public health in Hawaii with this decision," said state Health Director Bruce Anderson, a graduate and staunch advocate of the public health school.

However, he said merging the public health and medical schools may offer some opportunities. He has a degree from Yale University's School of Medicine, which includes the department of public health, he said. "I think it provides a more rounded, more complete background for public health and medical students."

Smith said the UH will receive the formal council decision in about 30 days and will have 30 days in which to appeal it.

Mortimer and Smith have said the financially troubled university doesn't have the resources to support the public health school.

Anderson forged an agreement with the UH to bolster the school's resources with staffing from the health department and research facilities for students.

Wood hoped to take it to the council meeting, but the administration said it must be presented at the Board of Regents meeting next week.

"We've got all kinds of dirty tricks going," said Jerome Grossman, public health professor who started with the school 33 years ago and was with Wood in Kentucky.

"The week before we went, the doctoral program was stopped. The agreement with the DOH was never signed. We were even told the president's office never did acknowledge receipt of the accrediting report since the committee was here."

Thus, he said, the council's position was, "If your university administration doesn't want you, why should we accredit you?"

The main concern now is students due at the school in September, Grossman said. "We're the one game in town, so some students are willing to say they'll come for an education, even though they know we're on the ropes."

To put the public health program in the medical school, Grossman said, "is like being swallowed by a whale."

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