Remarks by Chancellor Donald O. Straney
UH Hilo College of Pharmacy White Coat Ceremony
October 17, 2010
UH Hilo Performing Arts Center
University of Hawai‘i at Hilo
We are all sharing “firsts” today. This is my first White Coat Ceremony, too. This is a special day for you, because you join the ranks of the profession you are studying to join. It is a profession that is centuries old and you will follow the traditions your predecessors developed, and you will in turn be part of the continuing change in its practices. My guess is that, when you retire, you will be helping people in ways that we cant even imagine today.
UH Hilo began as a small branch campus of the UH in Mānoa. Its mission was to prepare Hilo students to transfer to receive their degrees on O‘ahu. UH Hilo is no longer a branch campus—it is a university in its own right. UH Hilo has grown to be a university of national stature with an international scope.
The island of Hawai‘i is the best place in the world to study a surprisingly long list of subjects: astronomy, marine biology, evolution, natural products, rural sociology, and so forth. Because this is such a perfect place for scholars to work, UH Hilo has attracted some of the best faculty in these fields. They bring to the Hilo community not just a way to begin a college education—they bring to Hilo one of the best college educations you can find anywhere in the country. UH Hilo gives students an opportunity to learn from the very best what matters most to this island to the state and to the world.
The College of Pharmacy is an excellent model of what UH Hilo can do. Four years ago, you could not have studied pharmacy on the island of Hawaii. Today, not only can you study it here, but you work with faculty recruited from across the world for their skills and abilities as scientists. They will teach you as well or better than at any other school in the country.
One reason I believe the education you will receive here is so good is that the college is committed to preparing you to take what you learn here and use it to make your communities better. The faculty of the college are nationally recognized for that commitment, most recently with the award of a $16 M grant to establish an integrated health information system on the island.
The College of Pharmacy serves as the nucleus for building a center of excellence in health care, delivery and development at UH Hilo. As we build our program in health care, we will focus our attention on the needs of communities like those found on the island of Hawaii—rural, dispersed communities where access to health care is a critical social challenge.
Today, I am pleased to formalize this UH Hilo health care initiative and to announce the formation of the Center for Rural Health Science at UH Hilo. It will be housed in the College of Pharmacy and draw together physicians, pharmacists, nurses and other health care providers to solve rural health problems in Hawai‘i and throughout the Pacific by means of research, education, community service and policy change.
The founding director will be Dr. Karen Pellegrin, director of strategic planning and continuing education in the College of Pharmacy, and principal investigator of the $16 million federal Beacon Community grant. I want to thank her for agreeing to serve in this capacity.
The Center for Rural Health Science is an extraordinary opportunity for UH Hilo to help improve life in the rural communities of Hawai‘i through new and better models of health care. It will have the resources, the expertise and the partners to succeed. Our College of Pharmacy collaborates effectively with hospitals and health care providers all over the state, and UH Hilo’s School of Nursing has enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to support the center’s work. The center will be an important means for UH Hilo to contribute to improving the health status of our region.
Dean Pezzuto, and the extraordinary faculty he has assembled, are helping UH Hilo contribute to our community in ways we didn’t imagine a few years ago.
Even beyond the new center, the College of Pharmacy is planning new programs, such as physical therapy, as well as dual degree options. A new building is being planned that we hope will lead to a larger health care center. Pharmacy will be the anchor for these initiatives.
You can take pride in the fact that, as the fourth class to be seated, you represent the maturation of the College. You and the three classes before you comprise the foundation that will support the college’s future.
So congratulations to you, Class of 2014, on being admitted to such a dynamic program. The faculty have every confidence that you will succeed in your studies. I know you will continue to make your family proud, to make the faculty proud, and to make the community proud, as you continue your journey. See you at graduation!