A Medial Miracle

February, 2001

A little over a year ago, Dr. Edwin C. Cadman started his new job as dean of the University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns School of Medicine. The school, without a permanent dean since 1996, was near death, having been almost suffocated by constant budget cuts. Cadman had his work cut out for him.

Miraculously, the good doctor has not only revived the school but is on the verge of pulling off the academic equivalent of building the six million-dollar man. During Cadman’s short tenure he has almost tripled the amount of research grant money at the school from $5.8 million in 1999 to $15.8 million in 2000 by luring some of the best and brightest to Hawaii. He’s overseeing a stopgap renovation to school facilities to accommodate the new researchers and faculty he has recruited and hopes to recruit. And he is doing this all while planning the school’s most ambitious expansion to date, the construction of a $140 to $200 million medical school and research complex on 10 acres of waterfront state property in Kakaako.

“We have the pied piper of the medical business here at Manoa,” says Allan D. Robb, vice dean of hospital and business affairs at the UH medical school. “People listen and follow him. The mission and vision didn’t come until we had the leader.”

And that vision is as clear as it is broad. According to Cadman, the future of the medical school is going to rely heavily on how successful it is in generating its own revenue stream. Medical research and its possible breakthrough discoveries promise to be an economic foundation of the new school and Cadman believes that in 10 years he will be able to match or exceed the state’s contribution to his operating budget. Currently, the medical school has a budget of approximately $30 million.

“I hate to use a sports metaphor but you can’t recruit the best baseball players if you have a lousy field,” says Cadman. “That is where we are. We have an awful physical plant.”

And there is a slight sense of urgency to recruit new faculty since some of Cadman’s “players” are ready for the makule league. According to Cadman, 29 of his faculty of 300-plus are over 65 and nine of those are over 70.

The proposed medical school would focus on education and research with abundant leasable space for use by the biotech and biomedical industries. The new school would need 60 new faculty members and between 300 to 400 new staff. Cadman believes that it will immediately be able to double the school’s current research money to somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 million.

“My personal opinion is that this is one of the better ways that the state can use its money,” adds Bill Richardson of HMS Hawaii. “It could attract significant monies from the National Institute of Health and would put Hawaii on the map for its cloning technology and biotech efforts.” Last November, Cadman formally submitted his plan to the governor and he intends to spend a good portion of this legislative session showing it to lawmakers, business people and local philanthropists.

“I get unsolicited inquiries all the time from top-flight people wanting to relocate here,” says Cadman. We have all that is necessary to have a first-rate medical school, we just have to build the field.”

 

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