UH’s Medical Move
New facilities are anything but old school
The John A. Burns School of Medicine celebrated the opening of its new Medical Education Building in Kakaʻako with an international bioscience conference in January 2005. New facilities—an adjacent research building is expected to open in the fall—combined with a growing and invigorated faculty and new focus on research have made the school stronger than ever as it enters its 30th year of graduating physicians.
Not bad for a program that a decade ago lacked permanent leadership, suffered aging facilities and was in serious trouble with accreditation.
What changed? Greater recognition of the school’s importance to the state’s healthcare community, for one thing (nearly half the practicing physicians in Hawai’i studied at JABSOM) and realization that the school could boost the economy and create the foundation for a local biotech industry by attracting talent and research dollars.
(Outside research grants and contracts approached $30 million in 2004, a six-fold increase in the five years following the arrival of Edwin Cadman, a quietly driven dean who quickly established the goal of becoming one of the top 50 medical schools for research funding in the nation.)
The BioSciences Conference highlighted some of the life sciences that will dramatically alter the course of medicine over the next few decades, including genomics, proteomics, bioinformatics and new approaches to addressing infectious diseases. It drew nearly 400 physicians and featured prominent speakers, including Nobel Laureates David Baltimore from Cal Tech and J. Michael Bishop from the University of California, San Francisco. Julie Gerberding, director of the country’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, discussed the new realities of infectious diseases, characterized by the recent rapid spread of SARS.
Some UH faculty described their work, including areas of particular concern to Hawai’i, such as the affects of "ice" and other drugs, disproportionate infant mortality and labor problems among Hawaiian and Filipino populations and ethnic disparities in heart disease.
The conference concluded with a gala community reception, and guests were invited to explore the new Medical Education Building. In keeping with Kakaʻako’s special design district requirements, the building emphasizes a Hawaiian sense of place.
Energy-efficiency and environmental concerns figured prominently in the design. Aesthetically, the buildings blend into the surroundings with colors representative of the natural elements—earth, green plants, water, sand and ocean.
A stone strip running along the outside wall uses kapa-inspired engravings that meld the science of the double helices of DNA with symbols from Native Hawaiian folklore.
Elevator doors and glass walls at the entrance are etched with four healing plants used by Native Hawaiians—pōpolo (black nightshade), kukui, lehua and ’awa. Plans call for a Hawaiian Healing Garden on the site to honor ancient traditions and provide a meditative place for visitors.
The Hawaiian focus is more than window dressing. JABSOM is committed to training and research programs that address local needs, including recruitment and retention of Native Hawaiian and other underrepresented populations into the medical education programs.
In another kind of partnership, the school’s first floor Café is a joint venture between JABSOM and Kapiʻolani Community College Dining Services. It is open to the public 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. Next door, the Research Building will feature new and expanded laboratory spaces to accommodate the growing number of researchers and research grants coming to the school.
Officials say this is just the beginning. There are a total of 100 acres in the Kakaʻako peninsula held for further development, with plans for more research buildings and commercial and residential developments.
- Founded in 1962; a four-year program since 1974
- Alumni number 1,600
- Pioneered clinically intensive, problem-based instruction
- Received more than $6 million in institutional grants last year
- 3 out of 5 Hawaiʻi physicians trained in UH MD or residency programs
Q&A with Sam Shomaker
Shortly after celebrating the opening of the John A. Burns School of Medicine’s new education building, Dean Edwin Cadman took leave to address a personal health crisis. He recommended Vice Dean T. Samuel Shomaker to serve as acting dean. A JABSOM alumnus (MD ’86), he was a professor and chief of staff at the University of Utah Medical School when he returned to Hawaiʻi in 2000. Shomaker is also an attorney who practiced law in Hawaiʻi prior to studying medicine. Here he comments on—
Switching from law to medicine
In the legal profession, there are usually winners and losers, and this was frustrating. In medicine, everyone in the system works on behalf of the patient. As a result, everyone—patient, healthcare provider and the system overall—is a winner. Still, my legal training has been extremely helpful in medical school administration.
Choosing to study at JABSOM
I never seriously considered any other school. JABSOM gave me the greatest chance of accomplishing my long-term goal of serving the people of Hawaiʻi. The ethic diversity, rich variety of clinical experiences and excellent hospitals and faculty made this a great place to go to medical school.
Moving from patient care to educational administration
Although I enjoyed patient interactions immensely, in the clinical setting I could help only one patient at a time. In administrative leadership, I can have a much broader impact by structuring medical school programs to respond to people’s healthcare needs.
Returning to UH
I very much believe in JABSOM. It plays a critical role in the healthcare system of our state, and it can be the foundation for a local biotechnology industry. I was inspired by Dean Cadman’s vision of a school known for research excellence, and I will work to ensure that it reaches its full potential.
There is a tremendous sense of optimism surrounding the school’s future. The most important thing we can do is to make discoveries that will improve the health of people in Hawaiʻi.
Selected faculty research grants
In addition to more than $6 million in institutional grants for selected research, infrastructure support and an endowed Chair in Native Hawaiian Health, JABSOM faculty attract research funding. Some of the largest 2004 grant winners are listed here.
Dean Smith, $2.4 million to increase Hawaiʻi researchers’ competitiveness (NIH)
Kenneth Ward, $2.3 million for research on early human development (NIH)
Joachim Spiess, $2 million for clinical and genetic studies related to emotion and cognition (NIH)
Charles Boyd, $1.9 million to develop cardiovascular research (NIH)
Richard Yanagihara, $1.9 million for a Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases Research (NIH)
Cecilia Shikuma, $1.7 million for HIV studies of fat wasting and neuro-cognitive activity (NIH)
Linda Chang, $1.6 million to study impacts of aging, medication, drug abuse and HIV on brain function (NIH)
Marjorie Mau, $1.6 million to investigate diabetes and heart failure disparities in Hawaiʻi (NIH)
Kelley Withy, $1.5 million for career recruitment and mentoring in the Pacific (PHS)
Gregory Mark, $1 million to determine risk factors associated with youth violence (CDC)
Marla Berry, $954,000 to study selenoprotein regulation, expression and synthesis (NIH)
David Curb, $750,000 for the Women’s Health Initiative–East/West (NIH)
Naleen Andrade, $598,000 for Pacific People’s Mental Health Research Support Program (NIH)
Benjamin Young, $559,000 to increase the number of Native Hawaiians health practitioners (PHS)
Rosanne Harrigan, $537,000 to establish PhD training in clinical research (NIH)
Neal Palafox, $506,000 for comprehensive cancer control programs for the Pacific Islands (CDC)
Irwin Schatz, $483,000 for instructional clinics (VA)
Federal funding sources: Centers for Disease Control (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Public Health Service (PHS), Veterans Affairs (VA). Data: UH Office of Research Services reports