By JOHN M. PEZZUTO
One word best describes the founding of The Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy at UH-Hilo: Transformational. Education, health care, discovery, community service, economic impact — all and more were transformed throughout the state and the Pacific region, thanks to the creation of this college.
To date, more than 600 students have enrolled at UH-Hilo to earn their doctorate in pharmacy, their doctorate in pharmaceutical science or their master of science in clinical psychopharmacology. We receive about 1,000 applications every year, and accept 90 in our program. Their success rate is impressive: As of January 2013, 95 percent of the graduates from the Class of 2011 and 73 percent of the Class of 2012 reported that they were working in a job that required a PharmD degree.
The economic impact of our presence here was confirmed in a study that showed we have stimulated more than $50.2 million per year in economic activity in Hawaii. We made it possible for in-state students to stay here instead of attending PharmD programs elsewhere, and attracted students and family from out-of-state who would otherwise not come here.
Meanwhile, through our experiential training, we have developed ties with scores of clinical sites throughout Hawaii, on the four major islands, collaborating in the advancement of patient care services. Through research and grants, such as the $14.2 million Pharm2Pharm project, we expand Hawaii’s global visibility and created attractive destinations for future students and scholars. We have attracted more than 100 researchers who already have their Ph.D. to work alongside our researchers who are discovering new ways to fight diseases such as cancer and tuberculosis.
I am always surprised when I hear someone say they’ve never heard of us, or weren’t aware of our progress. Please allow me to remind you of our performance. With seed funding from the late Sen. Inouye, we became the only college of pharmacy in the Pacific region. We enrolled our inaugural class of 90 students in 2007, and 90 new student pharmacists have joined them every fall. These students earn the professional PharmD degree and are prepared to take licensing exams in all 50 states.
But make no mistake about our motives. We are here because of our students. Every year I am more and more enamored with the type of student who qualifies to study in our program. Our students come to us with eyes wide open, smart, enthusiastic, high achievers, knowing that we still have goals to meet but trusting us not to let them down. Each class has its own distinctive way of integrating into our community. You may have met them at their health fairs and fundraisers held throughout the state.
And now we have experienced another first. This one is much more ominous.
All professional pharmacy programs are evaluated by the Accreditation Council of Pharmacy Education and must be compliant with 30 separate standards. Throughout our formative years, we have been judged as compliant with all standards and we have gained full accreditation. But now, after spending millions of dollars on planning for a permanent facility, we have not received the construction funds from the Legislature. As a result, the program has been found noncompliant for a single standard dealing with physical facilities. We must rectify this situation to retain our accreditation over the long-term.
Like the schools of medicine and law, the College of Pharmacy is unique within the University of Hawaii system. Can you imagine the schools of medicine or law without a proper permanent facility? Our accrediting body is correct — “to reach full potential, The Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy must have a permanent facility.”
We want to thank the many throughout the state for your letters of support and signing our petitions requesting legislative funding. But now, more than ever, we need your help. We need to show the accreditation board a tangible sign that the people who benefit most from our work believe in us. We must encourage our lawmakers, and the people who vote for them, to support the future of our state by supporting the only college of pharmacy in the Pacific region. I hope we can count on you.
John M. Pezzuto is dean of The Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy.