A Message From the Vice President

Hawai‘i’s year-round sunshine, mild weather and clear blue ocean certainly leads to a more active and healthier lifestyle for its residents—resulting in Hawai‘i being named as the healthiest state in the U.S. for the ninth time by the United Health Foundation.

Despite the accolades, there is still much work to be done to improve health care in the state. Hawai‘i is in the midst a physician shortage, especially on the rural Neighbor Islands, of specialists and primary care providers—resulting in extremely long waits for appointments or necessitating travel to Honolulu. Native Hawaiian and Pacific Island residents face continuing socio-economic health disparities, while the absence of effective behavioral health programs has led to a significant increase in the state’s homeless population. Hawai‘i also has the highest prevalence of tooth decay among children in the nation, and its role as an international hub leaves the state vulnerable to infectious disease outbreaks.

In response, the University of Hawai‘i System (UH System) is leading the charge to improve health care and related policies through the establishment of the UHealthy Hawai‘i initiative. The collaboration of local hospitals, health care insurers, business organizations, government and leading UH health science programs—like the John A. Burns School of Medicine, UH Mānoa School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene, UH Cancer Center, UH Hilo’s Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy, UH West O‘ahu’s Undergraduate Health Science Program and the UH Community Colleges’ Health Science program—are uniting to help ensure a robust health workforce, improve and extend lives, promote healthier families and communities, and advance health in all policies.

As the effects of climate change intensifies, UH President David Lassner launched the renewal of the UH System’s sustainability and resilience initiative efforts with an exciting and fast-paced video showcasing the university’s strengths. With one of the most geographically diverse island environments, top-notch researchers and deep cultural connections to ancient Hawai‘i, UH has positioned itself to serve as a model laboratory of sustainability and resilience efforts in the state and around the world. The UH Mānoa Institute for Sustainability and Resilience, a key component of this initiative, is featured in this issue.

Unfortunately, UH lost one of its brightest stars in this effort with the passing of world-renowned marine biologist Dr. Ruth Gates on October 25, 2018. As director of the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology, Ruth elevated coral reef conservation research to new heights with her unbridled passion and devotion to her craft. Her contagious enthusiasm also helped to increase public awareness on the plight of coral reefs and the urgent need to protect them. She will be sorely missed.

Vassilis L. Syrmos, PhD

Vice President for Research and Innovation
University of Hawai‘i System