Thursday, June 17, 1999

UH decision angers
health groups

By Helen Altonn


A University of Hawaii administrative decision not to recommend reappointment of William Wood as the School of Public Health's interim dean is angering community health organizations.

The Hawaii Coalition for Health, a consumer group with 1,100 members, and its offspring, the Health Care Ohana, are seeking solutions to save both the School of Public Health and the School of Medicine, said Dr. Arleen Jouxson-Meyers, coalition president.

"Terminating Bill Wood and putting somebody else in place I think is sabotaging our plan."

Jouxson-Meyers said she faxed a letter to UH President Kenneth Mortimer last night protesting that decision.

Wood said UH Senior Vice President Dean Smith told him yesterday that he's withdrawing Wood's name for reappointment because of "intractable differences."

Wood said he won't compromise his principles -- that he believes only an accredited School of Public Health can meet the needs of the state and the region.

Wood has waged a campaign to gain accreditation for the public health school and maintain its status as a school.

However, the national accrediting body revoked the school's accreditation, effective June 5, 2000, because of lack of support by the UH administration.

Mortimer and Smith have said the university doesn't have resources to support the school, which they want to convert to an accredited program within the John A. Burns School of Medicine.

Smith had scheduled a meeting this morning with public health school faculty and students to explain the situation. The only ones who showed up were graduate students Mark Diel and Justin Kunkle.

The students said they felt it was a discredit to the university to remove Wood as the interim dean. They said that he was the only administrator at UH that they had confidence in.

Smith said that there was no dissatisfaction with Wood's performance but that he was not being reappointed because of a disagreement over the direction of the school.

He said he had asked Wood to begin planning a public health program for the medical school and that Wood said he could not take the lead in developing the program without knowing the university's vision for it.

Smith said that he must have a dean who can move ahead on planning the program.

"I don't want to dawdle," Smith said.

Jouxson-Meyers said the health groups met with Mortimer May 28 and stressed "a groundswell of public opposition" to closing either the medical or public health school.

In a short time, they gathered 1,500 signatures on a petition supporting the public health school and 4,500 signatures supporting the medical school, she said.

"To go and kick Bill Wood out now is not savvy," Jouxson-Meyers said. "The Health Care Ohana Group is a large group of well-educated, qualified people.

"Are they messing with us by asking us to seek solutions and waste our time for the next three months when they've already got a plan in mind?"

"It's going to be very unpopular" if UH tries to close the schools without fully researching options, she added.

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