‘We’re all together’


  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Megan Woolsey and Ola Gbadebo walk by the large mural Thursday in a study room at the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy at UH-Hilo.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy students Brennan Palani Buccat, left, and Skye Pyo look at fake medications Thursday in a simulated pharmaceutical area at UH-Hilo.

Shortly after the award-winning Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy building at the University of Hawaii at Hilo was honored with a blessing ceremony in December 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, forcing many students to miss out on the innovative new structure.

Now, the first group of students are being invited back to utilize the amenities, classrooms, lecture halls and labs designed to provide practical skills and immersive training.


“We’re finally at a point where we can utilize this building in the way it was intended,” said interim dean Miriam Mobley Smith, who has been serving in the role since February.

From the outside, the $31 million, 45,000-square-foot building features a bright red, undulating roof that honors the volcano goddess Pele. Even the name of the building captures her spirit, “Hale Kiho‘ilho‘i,” or the restoration of land after a lava flow, an apt metaphor for the return of students and staff following the pandemic.

“The students who were in the program at that point didn’t have the chance to experience what this building could be,” Smith said. “It takes a lot to overcome that.”

On the second floor, massive windows provide natural light for the school’s compound laboratories, mock retail and dispensing labs, IV and sterilization rooms, conference rooms and pharmacy practice spaces.

In one immersive practice space, a realistic simulated man capable of blinking and breathing rests on a table, ready for students to practice taking blood pressure and other assessments.

Offices for student services, administrators and faculty line the upstairs hallways as well, allowing everyone from the school to interact and consult with one another more efficiently.

“We’re all together,” said Smith. “Every faculty member now has an office in this building.”

On the lower level, two new lecture halls are filled with students in rooms that double as community meeting spaces, hosting health screenings and a recent diabetes prevention program.

While each hall seats 80, the walls can collapse, creating one massive lecture space that can easily accommodate up to 160 people.

Also on the lower level, a painted mural depicts flowers and quotes that blend traditional herbal medicine with modern techniques that DKICP specializes in.

Starting in the lobby featuring a communal workspace, the mural stretches into the student pantry and break rooms, which feature spaces to study and interactive monitors that can be connected to computers for livestream meetings with nurses and other medical professionals within the community.

The same conceptual design tools are used for the outside structure. Student and liaison for the American Pharmacists Association Megan Woolsey described the different sized circles in the walls as a symbol for the patient care process, with larger ones representing the patient as a whole and the smaller reflecting the patient-centered care for each individual.

To match the new space, the school has additional plans for expanding its curriculum.

With a contemporary focus, students receive training in four separate experiential or hands-on clinical care areas, which makes up 30% of the college’s overall curriculum. This includes community pharmacies, hospital pharmacies, acute medicine and ambulatory care.

There also are several certificate programs offered, including for health care leadership, rural health care and health science research, with plans of adding an additional certificate for veterinary pharmacy in the near future.

Additional plans for increasing quality enrollment for the school are being addressed through a pharmacy college admissions pathway hopefully coming to other UH campuses, along with capstone programs and student-led assessments to see what improvements can be made, and what overall impact the school is having on their careers.

“There’s a lot going on and a lot we can do,” said Smith. “And I’m just happy to be a part of it.”

Email Grant Phillips at gphillips@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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