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Category: Remarks, Messages, & Writings

Remarks by the Chancellor at 2011 UH Hilo Spring Gathering

Remarks by UH Hilo Chancellor Donald O. Straney
2011 Spring Gathering
January 26
Campus Center Plaza

Audience on plaza.
Chancellor addresses faculty and staff at the 2011 Spring Gathering held at the Campus Center Plaza.

Aloha and welcome to the 2011 Spring Gathering! Thank you all for coming.

Jean, thank you for that kind introduction.

Aloha Chancellor Yamane and our distinguished guests from Hawai‘i Community College, UH Hilo Faculty, Staff, and Students. Welcome to our 2011 Spring Gathering. Thank you all for coming.

Thank you, Kalani Makekau-Whittaker and the staff and students of Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center, for opening our gathering.

Thank you, Matt Howell and the Kāpili Choir, for the beautiful singing. I look forward to hearing more songs later in our program today.

Today I’d like to share with you my thoughts about UH Hilo and what I discovered during my first six months. I’ll also share some latest news from our colleges and elsewhere around campus. The choir will sing again and then we’ll introduce our newcomers.

I’ve just completed my first semester as chancellor at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. It’s been an extraordinary learning experience, and I’ve found a good deal to admire about our university. I’d like to share a few of the attributes I’ve discovered about UH Hilo that give us a competitive edge in the higher education marketplace.

I think UH Hilo is an incredibly strong university. We’re blessed with very high quality faculty who could work elsewhere but choose to work here. The faculty is providing a very high quality education to our students. Our dedicated staff also contribute greatly to our success.

When I first arrived, I started asking questions. I zeroed in on three basic questions—both on campus and off. I visited with departments and faculty to talk with you about these and other areas.

  1. How can we help students learn better and graduate faster? Seems obvious, but it is an active effort. Graduation rates can be significantly improved. We need to graduate more than one in three students in six years, but we need to do it in a way that maintains the quality and standards of our programs.
  2. How do we make work more satisfying for the members of our university ohana? What are the road blocks, how can we streamline, improve communication and morale? We’re holding a series of workshops with faculty and staff to solicit recommendations for improvements, looking at the ideas that have emerged, and making plans to implement them: Streamline signatures, improve communication, provide shuttles, and more.
  3. Finally, how can we benefit the whole island and state? Hilo is in our name, but Hawai‘i is under our feet. We and Hawai’i Community College are the only sources of higher education on this island. We need to take a 2+2 approach to curriculum development, together with Hawai‘i Community College.

The strategic planning process is well under way. Consultation with the campus on the draft mission and vision statements is in process. The Strategic Planning Committee does not view the initial drafts as definitive. The committee really wants your help to refine them. I want to share with you what I see as some of the key elements that distinguish UH Hilo.

UH Hilo has a number of great comparative advantages. Our small classes are a key advantage. They allow students to have the personal attention of PhD faculty who are active scholars in their fields. Our faculty regularly collaborate with students on research and service projects. I think of UH Hilo as a “practical university,” one that prepares students well for meaningful and productive careers here at home that will help build our island economy and strengthen our island communities.

Our island is the best place in the world to study environmental and marine science, astronomy and volcanoes, sustainable agriculture, Hawaiian studies and Indigenous language revitalization, conservation biology, and many more subjects. There is a strong “sense of place” in these fields, and they all present opportunities for our graduates to make lifelong contributions to their own communities and help build a prosperous future.

In fact, everything we do has a strong sense of place. How do we know this is a Hawaii university and not just a university in Hawai‘i? We are grounded in a strong sense of place where the culture and language permeate and strengthen everything about the way we live, teach and learn. We are building a vision that will not only be Hawaiian in name but in the context of how things are done on campus. You can see this in our greatest areas of potential: Rural Health, Environment, Energy, Agriculture.

UH Hilo is more than an institution of higher education, it’s a major economic engine for our island and state. A recent estimate is that UH Hilo contributes about $240 million to the economic activity of the state. We employ 610 people and stimulate an additional 3,900 jobs in our local communities. UH Hilo’s University Park of Science and Technology: represents $900 million in investments and creates about 400 jobs.

For this spring, the enrollment trend at UH Hilo continues upwards, as it has for the past twelve years. This spring semester, we have 2.5% more students than last spring.

Now I’d like to share some news from our five academic colleges:

  1. Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management is working on developing a training program in alternative fuels. The plan is for an extraction mill to do double service as a feed production mill. An ethanol production training facility is also envisioned.
  2. Arts and Sciences is delighted to welcome its first Droste Distinguished Visiting Research Fellow of Art, Dr. Cathryn Shine, from the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand. Cathryn, can you please stand and be recognized? At the University of Canterbury, Dr. Shine is the coordinator of Studios for Photography and Printmaking in the School of Fine Arts, and current director of the Pacific Rim International Print Exhibition. Dr. Shine is here for six weeks. While at UH Hilo, she will engage in research and teach a special topics course, Lithography and Studio Open Forum. She also will give a public presentation that will address aspect of her scholarship and the ongoing significance of the Pacific Rim exhibition. The Droste Distinguished Visiting Research Fellow is an initiative of the Art Department and is made possible by the generous bequest from Howard and Yoneko Droste.
  3. Business and Economics is planning for the refurbishment of UCB 114 for distance learning capacity. The college is working on a soft launch for Fall 2011. Also, UH Hilo, through the College of Business and Economics, is now on the US News & World Report’s “Best Business Program” list.
  4. Hawaiian Language celebrates two doctorates in Hawaiian and Indigenous Language and Culture Revitalization that were presented at fall commencement. The honors went to Katarina Edmonds, a Maori educator from New Zealand, and Kauanoe Kamanā, the first of Native Hawaiian ancestry to receive the PhD awarded by Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language.
  5. Pharmacy will graduate its first class of student pharmacists this May and full accreditation is expected in June.

As you know, the fiscal situation in state government is challenging. Governor Abercrombie said in his State of the State address, “the canoe could capsize,” and “we could all huli.” State government needs to make up an $844 million shortfall in the next two and a half years. We have not seen as big a rebound in the economy as we had hoped for. In addition, all state programs are stretched and under resourced. As our economy recovers, we should see an increase in revenues to the university, but we will be in this condition for a while.

UH Hilo is proactive in generating some of its own resources. I’m extremely pleased to see how hard our faculty and staff work to pursue and implement extramural grants. We have the total for last fiscal year ending June 2010, and it’s the highest ever: $27 million. This year’s numbers reflect the College of Pharmacy’s Beacon Community Grant $16 million to support health information technology on the island of Hawai‘i.

Private fundraising results have settled back down after the Centennial Campaign ended in 2009 with $6 million total. Considering the state of the economy, our fundraising is fairly successful, at $3 million for the year, and we’ve begun to prepare for a new capital campaign. Our largest bequest in the history of UH Hilo came last year from retired UH Hilo faculty members, Howard and Yoneko Droste. This generous $810K gift will be used to support the work of the art and English departments. It also sends a powerful message to other potential donors that the faculty at UH Hilo believe enough in our programs to contribute themselves. Last year, we launched a Scholarship Matching Program, leveraging an earlier $1 million donation toward scholarships. By last July, we had created a total of 22 new scholarships.

However, we are dealing with a 22% reduction over the last two years to the general fund budget. Even with increased student demands, we are trying to protect our instructional core, offer needed classes, keep class sizes small, and serve and support our students and faculty as best as we can. We have been doing a great job of handling the combination of budget reductions, large enrollment growth, and balancing the various competing needs of the campus.

We’ve reviewed our budget mid-year, as we always do. We have also done projections through year end. We will need to make some further adjustments to ensure we can fulfill our academic plan for the year. As always, we also need to make sure we end the year in the black. The governor has not yet released our fourth quarter budget. So we not only have to continue to be cautious but need to be prepared to possibly respond to additional budget reductions.

We will have to face some additional decisions and may have to defer some expenditures and some hiring.

We need to take advantage of every means at our disposal to generate revenue: extramural grants, fundraising, and working with the system to maximize income.

For example, we can make sure we achieve the benchmarks proposed by the UH System to the legislature. If it’s enacted into law, this model would allocate funding to the campuses in the next biennium based on achieving some of the system’s strategic outcome measures. Under this model, enrollment growth in undergraduates who are residents of Hawai‘i will increase revenue. Such growth should fund increased instruction.

We also need to achieve the system’s targets for the number of degrees and certificates we award. Of course, we need to go about meeting these targets without compromising academic quality, and I am confident we can do it.

Our Enrollment Management Implementation Team, which is made up of members from both academic affairs and student affairs, is coordinating our response as the UH System prepares to transition into this performance-based budget formula.

And I’m happy to report positive news from Facilities Planning:

Our beautiful new Science and Technology Building has taken full shape and is nearing completion! Astronomy/physics and chemistry departments will move into the building.

With $28 million in funds released by the governor last year, we will break ground on the award-winning College of Hawaiian Language building on February 12. It will be a grand celebration. I say award-winning because the Honolulu chapter of the American Institute of Architects gave WCIT Architects the design award for this building in the “Commissioned Work to be Built” category. The building and landscape will reflect Hawaiian culture and Big Island natural resources. I hope you’ll join us for the groundbreaking at the Nowelo Street site Saturday, February 12.

This concludes this portion of the program, thank you for your kind attention.

The choir sings at the Spring Gathering.
Under the direction of Assistant Professor of Music Matt Howell, the Kāpili Choir performs at the 2011 Spring Gathering held at the Campus Center Plaza.

And now it’s time to transition into welcoming our newcomers. But first, more music from the Kāpili choir. [Under the direction of Assistant Professor of Music Matt Howell, the Kāpili Choir sings How many psychiatrists by PDQ Back, Sore wa dare by Mizuno, and Amore de mi Alma by Stroope.]

Thank you for the beautiful singing.

We are pleased to introduce our newcomers. Thank you to all the hard work of the search committees. I’m impressed with the caliber of our new faculty and staff.

I’d like to start off by making an introduction of someone who reports directly to me:
Kenny Simmons has kindly agreed to serve as interim vice chancellor for academic affairs. Kenny, if you could please come forward. Most of you know Kenny. She is a professor of English, former humanities division chair, and has served as assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs for the past several years. I’d like to express my appreciation to Kenny for agreeing to step in.

Division Chair Leon Hallacher will make the introductions for the College of Arts and Sciences Division of Natural Sciences. [Leon Hallacher introduces Jesse Goldman, Physics and Astronomy]

Dean Marcia Sakai will introduce for the College of Business and Economics. [Marcia Sakai introduces Dr. Christopher McNally, Asst Prof International Business, appointed to position of Director China US Relations Master program.]

Dean John Pezzuto will introduce the newcomers from the College of Pharmacy. [John Pezzuto introduces Kristi Kaniho, Daryl Masanda, Candice Tan, and Caitrin Vordtriede]

Dean April Scazzola will introduce for the College of Continuing Education and Community Service. [April Scazzola introduces: Dr. Momi Naughton, Coordinator of the Heritage Center at the North Hawaii Education and Research Center; and Cindy Yamaguchi, Online Teaching and Learning Specialist.]

On behalf of Vice Chancellor Luoluo Hong, the newcomers from the Office of Student Affairs will be introduced by Gail Makuakane-Lundin, executive coordinator for student development programs and director of Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center. [Gail Makuakane-Lundin introduces Heather Hirata, Student Medical Services, Advanced Practice Registered Nurse II; Frances Hussain, Student Medical Services, Medical Technologist; Marc Miranda, Admissions Office, Admissions Counselor; Andrew Polloi, Counseling Services, Counselor; and Shari Tresky, Counseling Services, Counselor.]

Interim Vice Chancellor for Research Dan Brown will introduce newcomers in his area. [Dan Brown introduces Sheri Christopher.]

And ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai‘i has one newcomer, who will be introduced by Ka‘iu Kimura. [Ka‘iu Kimura introduces Robert Watson-Correa as ‘Imiloa Customer Service Associate.]

On behalf of our campus, I’d like to extend a warm welcome to all our newcomers.

Before I close, I’d like to say some thank you’s:

Thank you Chancellor Yamane and leadership at Hawai‘i Community College for joining us. I look forward to collaborating with you to improve higher education opportunities on our island.

Thank you:
Kalani Makekau-Whittaker and the staff and students from Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center.
Matt Howell and the Kāpili Choir.
Bridget Awong and staff at Sodexho.
David Scott for running the sound and PowerPoint.

Thank you, everyone, for joining us today. We have a number of challenges ahead, but I truly believe we’ll be able to do a lot to advance our university this year. But for now, let’s get to know one another better over refreshments. Please take the time to reach out to newcomers and welcome them into life on campus.

Have a productive spring semester!

And now the Kāpili Choir will sing one more song as we conclude our program.


[Kāpili Choir sings Oyasuminasai O tsukisama by Mizuno.]

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Testimony by the Chancellor to the Hawai‘i State Legislature

Legislative Testimony
University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Chancellor Donald O. Straney
January 3, 2011
Hawai‘i State Legislature

UH Hilo has distinguished itself by combining teaching, service and scholarship to improve the wellbeing and status of citizens on Hawai‘i Island and across the state. We are the only university serving our island; our reach continues to grow beyond East Hawai‘i to centers in other areas of our island. Our smaller classes are taught by full-time faculty who bring their research to student learning. On-campus labs are complemented by the island’s vibrant “living laboratory” – making UH Hilo an ideal place to study astronomy, volcanology, marine science, indigenous language revitalization, and other fields. The College of Pharmacy and School of Nursing provide shared leadership to improve access to and quality of health care for our rural communities. We oversee the statewide Small Business Development Center and the Office of Mauna Kea Management, both of which are crucial to the State’s economy and future. Lastly, we contribute to quality of life and a “university town” through our performing arts, athletic events, and cultural enrichment offerings.

UH Hilo’s cumulative budget reduction now totals $8.5 million, which is 24% of our FY 2008-09 general fund allocation. Yet, UH Hilo continues to specialize in serving students who are economically disadvantaged, first generation in college, and/or from underrepresented minority groups, including 22% who are Native Hawaiians. Half of our students are from Hawai‘i Island (with a growing number from the other islands) and 70% are Hawai‘i residents. We have coped with the cuts by reducing non-instructional programs for students, increasing extramural awards to $27 million (from an average of about $4 million/year in the 1990s), generating $15 million in private gifts via the UH Centennial campaign, eliminating temporary positions, freezing civil service positions, and implementing collective bargaining salary reductions. More specifically:

  • Our Long Range Budget Planning Committee has encouraged innovative budget efficiencies ranging from updating light fixtures to reducing energy consumption and consolidating service agreements. For example, we recently equipped a residence hall cafeteria to also serve as a large-capacity classroom during certain hours of the day. Similarly, we merged all of our various academic support services into one center and consolidated existing medical and counseling services into one unit to reduce overhead.
  • Our Enrollment Management Implementation Team led efforts to offer fewer classes to more students in Falls of 2009 and 2010, with a higher seat fill-rate. We also generated more student semester hours. EMIT monitors and manages recruitment, admissions and registration efforts to generate incremental, manageable enrollment increases so that we can balance the University budget with tuition revenue.
  • Hiring of faculty positions were deferred in such high demand fields as biology, chemistry, psychology, communications, and English; search processes to fill vacant positions in student affairs, administrative affairs and university relations were also delayed.
  • We protected certain priorities to ensure health/safety and minimize institutional liability/risk. These included medical services, counseling services, campus security, classroom instruction, and essential repairs/maintenance. However, this meant that other departments received larger cuts proportionally.
  • We are generating new revenue streams through entrepreneurial efforts, particularly at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, in the Office of Intercollegiate Athletics, and elsewhere across campus. Similarly, to fulfill capital construction project needs, we are pursuing private-public partnerships (in the case of new student residential facilities) and using revenue bonds (in the case of temporary buildings).

For every $1.00 in state investment, UH Hilo generates an additional $3.06 in direct expenditures. We infuse $240 million per year into the local economy and provide 3,900 direct and indirect jobs [1]. Your continued support and investment will allow UH Hilo to continue serving our community in vital, meaningful and critical ways. Thank you for the opportunity to provide this testimony.

[1] David Hammes, UH Hilo Economics Professor, February 2008.

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Column by the Chancellor in Hawaii Tribune-Herald: Dec. 2010

Column by UH Hilo Chancellor Donald O. Straney
UH Hilo Today
Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Dec. 2010

Logo with the words Hawaii Tribune Herald

UH Hilo: An active partner in K-12 Education

The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo has never been an “ivory tower” university. From its beginning, UH Hilo has been deeply grounded in the community we serve and especially committed to programs that help prepare school children for a lifetime of learning.

To carry this tradition forward, I’ve begun a series of discussions with island education leaders about the needs of our schools and how UH Hilo might be more involved. I’m impressed with the passion everyone shares for giving our island children the best possible education at every level, from K-12 right up into higher education and beyond.

I’d like to share some of UH Hilo’s K-12 programs and partnerships that support K-12 education.

To begin with, UH Hilo has two outstanding teacher education programs, one in our Department of Education and one in our College of Hawaiian Language. Both help address Hawaii’s shortage of qualified teachers. We offer a master’s degree in education as well. UH Hilo also works with local teachers to improve student writing through the Lehua Writing Project, a federal grant that partners faculty from UH Hilo with K–12 schools.

High school principals have told me they are interested in increasing the number of students who take college-level courses while still in high school. UH Hilo’s existing Running Start program encourages academically talented high school juniors and seniors to supplement their regular high school work with college courses. We’re discussing ways to extend the benefits of this program around the island and increase participation overall.

Because a love of science must be sparked at an early age, UH Hilo is leading the way to encourage kids to explore science, technology, engineering and math, known as the “STEM” subjects.

Graduate students from UH Hilo’s Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science master’s program have been working with K-8 teachers to develop a curriculum focusing on Hawaiian marine and terrestrial environments. This grant-funded program is called PRISM: Partnerships for Reform through Investigative Science and Math. Inquiry-based lesson plans are now freely available to help excite students about science by doing science.

UH Hilo’s ‘Imiloa Astronomy Education Center welcomed 12,300 students in grades 1-12 from 62 Big Island schools over the past two years thanks to the Adopt-a-Class Program and a generous $637,000 grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Our Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems is a another good example of collaboration that benefits our school children. PISCES partners with international scientists and engineers in designing “next generation” technology for future space missions. K-12 programs are built right in.

UH Hilo’s annual Astronaut Ellison Onizuka Science Day, coming up on Saturday, January 22, offers exciting interactive workshops for students in grades 4-12. It’s an excellent venue to capture the interest of future university students and to let them know about UH Hilo’s cutting-edge science programs.

Native Hawaiian K-12 outreach also enriches our island communities. Nā Pua No‘eau Center for Gifted and Talented Native Hawaiian Children, a statewide program based at UH Hilo, serves K-12 students of Hawaiian ancestry with activities that embrace Native Hawaiian history, culture, values and language.

One of the most successful K-12 programs in the state is the Hawaiian Medium Laboratory Schools, facilitated by UH Hilo’s College of Hawaiian Language and Aha Punana Leo, a non-profit dedicated to Native Hawaiian family-based education. Laboratory schools are on the islands of Hawai‘i, O‘ahu, and Kaua‘i.

These are just some of UH Hilo’s programs and partnerships helping to support K-12 education. Together, we are making a difference in the lives of our young people, but I know we can do more. Our island principals have been telling me they would like UH Hilo students to tutor in the public schools, perhaps through an after-school program. We’ll continue exploring such options in the new year.

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Remarks by the Chancellor at White Coat Ceremony

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

Pharmacy logo with graphic design of volcano and flame with the words College of Pharmacy University of Hawaii at HiloGood afternoon ladies and gentlemen, friends and relatives, and most importantly, Class of 2014.

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!

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Column by the Chancellor in Hawaii Tribune-Herald: Oct. 2010

Column by UH Hilo Chancellor Donald O. Straney
UH Hilo Today
Hawaii Tribune-Herald
Oct. 2010

Logo with the words Hawaii Tribune Herald

UH Hilo center to help improve health care in the islands

As an institution of higher education, the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo plays a critical role in shaping the quality of life in the communities we serve. With the maturation of the College of Pharmacy, UH Hilo is ready to take a leadership role in addressing health care issues in the state.

Rural communities all over America suffer shortages of physicians, pharmacists and other clinicians, and rural hospitals struggle to stay afloat. These challenges are more complex in the remote islands of Hawai‘i, some 2,400 miles from the nearest continent. It’s clear that improved access to high quality health care for our rural citizens is not going to happen on its own. We need coordinated action to maximize the effectiveness of existing resources.

To this end, UH Hilo has established the Center for Rural Health Science, which will be housed in the College of Pharmacy. The center will draw together a wide range of health care providers to solve rural health problems through research, education, community service, and policy change. Our College of Pharmacy has the capacity to lead such a major initiative, and our School of Nursing embraces the opportunity to support the center’s work.

The center’s founding director will be Dr. Karen Pellegrin, the College of Pharmacy’s director of strategic planning and continuing education. She is also the principal investigator of the $16 million federal Beacon Community grant, which serves as the cornerstone for the center’s work.

Incorporated as a non-profit, the Hawai‘i Island Beacon Community recently hired its core management team. The president and chairman of the board is Dr. Ed Montell, a gastroenterologist who has practiced on the Big Island for 30 years and served in numerous leadership positions for health care organizations. Dr. Montell’s leadership has been critical in bringing the community together to pursue the Beacon Community’s goals: to improve access to primary care, specialty care, and behavioral health care; to avert the onset and improve management of chronic disease; and to reduce health disparities among Native Hawaiians and other populations at risk.

The new center will also be the home of a grant from the US Department of Agriculture to improve medication safety for rural Hawaii’s older adults. Dr. Anna Barbato, assistant professor of pharmacy practice in the UH Hilo College of Pharmacy and a certified geriatric specialist pharmacist, took the lead in developing community educational programs. To date, the College of Pharmacy has delivered medication safety programs to over 500 seniors in rural areas, including the Big Island, Maui, Lāna‘i, and Kaua‘i. Additional public seminars are being planned.

The USDA grant also provides funds for continuing education for physicians, pharmacists, and nurses to help them improve medication safety in the older adults they treat. Dr. Scott Holuby, affiliate faculty member in the College of Pharmacy, has taken the lead in developing this program, which has been delivered via webinar to over 20 clinicians to date. The convenience of attending via webinar has been a key factor for clinicians in rural areas, where opportunities for live continuing education are rare.  Additional sessions will be held to reach our goal of over 100 clinicians attending from rural areas throughout Hawai‘i.

These are examples of ways the Center for Rural Health Science will bring together health care resources on the island. Ultimately, the center seeks to produce measurable improvements in the quality of health care, its cost effectiveness, and the overall health of Hawaii’s rural communities. The center is an important means for UH Hilo to contribute to quality of life in the islands that sustain us all.

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