Ola means “health” and “to heal” in Hawaiian. Achieving health and wellness for the communities in Hawaii, which suffer disproportionately from genetic, environmental and socio-economic disparities in health and healthcare access, is the rationale for the proposed Research Centers in Minority Institutions (RCMI) Specialized Center. The strategic goal of the Center, named Ola HAWAII, is to grow and support a community of health disparities investigators and collaborators (the “workforce”) to harness the power of diverse thought (the “thinkforce”) to determine the causes of and interventions for health disparities in the Pacific. With its piko (center) based at the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM), of the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM), the breadth of research activity will encompass the College of Health Sciences and Social Welfare (CHSSW), which also includes the Thompson School of Social Work and Public Health (TSSWPH), with its Department of Social Work (SW), Office of Public Health Studies (OPHS) and Center on Aging (COA), and the School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene (SONDH). Other partnering units include the UH Cancer Center (UHCC), College of Natural Sciences (CNS), and Pacific Biosciences Research Center (PBRC). CHSSW and its partners have strong records of commitment to educating and serving underrepresented populations with health disparities, including Native Hawaiians, the indigenous people of Hawaii, as well as Filipinos and other Pacific Islanders. Ola HAWAII will achieve the overall RCMI Specialized Center goal through three strategic imperatives or aims.
Led by the Dean of JABSOM, Jerris R. Hedges, MD, and the Former Dean of TSSWPH, Noreen Mokuau, DSW, and in partnership with a Program Director and Core Directors with outstanding funding and publication records and strong commitments to mentoring and career development, as well as in collaboration with local CBO, the proposed RCMI Specialized Center will provide the infrastructure and resources to develop and support transdisciplinary teams of health disparities investigators and community collaborators to conduct basic biomedical, behavioral and clinical research on the causes of health disparities and the most effective solutions to reduce health disparities among the underserved, multiethnic populations in Hawaii. Thus, Ola HAWAII (Health And Wellness Achieved by Impacting Inequalities) will herald a new era of research excellence on the science of minority health and health disparities.