UH College of Pharmacy students go door to door at the state Capitol

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - By: Melanie Yamaguchi

About 10 University of Hawaii pharmacy students from Hilo went door to door at the state Capitol building Tuesday donned in white coats and urging legislators to approve funding for the state's only college of pharmacy that's currently at risk of of losing accreditation.

If approved in the Legislature by both the state House and Senate in May, $38 million would go to UH Hilo's Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy to fund research and a permanent building.

"We'll be able to improve our laboratory research space, our classroom space, really. Basically it's to build up the whole program," said Chris Lai Hipp, a fourth-year pharmacy student.

The college, founded in 2006, was accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education in 2011 for a two-year period, but in order to remain accredited, ACPE standards require that the college has a permanent building in place.

"We're being re-accredited right now so this building will be an important step for us to secure a permanent accreditation," Lai Hipp said. "Currently we're housed in a series of portable classrooms which is nice as of now, but it would be good to have a permanent building."

Sen. Gilbert Kahele, D-Hilo, has made funding of the UH College of Pharmacy one of his biggest priorities in the Legislature. Among many reasons, securing the $38 million would help improve research for cures for diseases such as breast cancer, he said.

"Research is very important also along with the school itself and what it provides to the students," Kahele said.

He said it's a gamble whether the accreditation council would decide to de-credit the program, but is hopeful that the full amount will be secured if legislators look at the major benefits of the UH College of Pharmacy.

"There are many, many reasons that I think this should be built and hopefully my colleagues see and realize that it is something good for the whole state of Hawaii and for the university and so forth and we can move forward," Kahele said.

The conference committee -- the final legislative hurdle before going to the House and Senate for floor votes -- decides the fate of the UH College of Pharmacy this week. So far, the Senate has included the $38 million in its budget, but not the House.

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