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Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology


Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology

Le‘ahi Hospital
3675 Kilauea Avenue, 3rd Floor
Honolulu, HI 96816
Tel: (808) 732-1477
Fax: (808) 732-1483
E-mail: sandrac@hawaii.edu
Web: hawaiimed.hawaii.edu


*Graduate Faculty

*D. J. Gubler, ScD (Chair)—arboviruses and vector-borne disease, epidemiology and control
*S. N. Bennett, PhD—molecular evolution and epidemiology of emerging infectious diseases
*J. Berg, PhD—acute lung injury
*S. P. Chang, PhD—immunology, molecular biology, molecular approaches to vaccine development
C. B. Cropp, PhD—arbovirology
*A. R. Diwan, PhD—medical virology: chemotherapy, vaccines
J. T. Efird, PhD—biostatistics modeling
*E. Furusawa, MD, PhD—viral chemotherapy
L. Gollin, PhD—medical anthropology and ethnobotany
*W. L. Gosnell, PhD—host parasite interactions, malaria, immunology
*G. S. N. Hui, PhD—parasitology, immunology, cell biology
*K. J. Kramer, PhD—parasitology, epidemiology, leptospirosis, HIV serodiagnosis
*F. D. Miller, PhD—epidemiology of infectious diseases
*V. R. Nerurkar, PhD—pathogenesis of infectious diseases, delineating cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying microbe-host interaction
*M. Parkes, PhD, MBChB—ecosystem approaches to human health, participatory action research
*S. Verma, PhD—molecular, biochemical aspects of viral diseases
G. Watt, MD—zoonotic infectious diseases
*B. A. Wilcox, PhD—ecology of infectious diseases, integrative health research, community medicine
*K. Yamaga, PhD—immunological mechanisms of diseases

Cooperating Graduate Faculty

R. D. Allen, PhD—ultrastructure and cell biology
J. M. Berestecky, PhD—enteric bacteria
P. Effler, MD—infectious disease epidemiology
G. Erdam, MD—molecular epidemiology of group A streptococcal and staphylococcal infections; complications of strep infections like acute rheumatic fever
A. Imrie, PhD—cytotoxic T-cells & HIV
J. H. Kim, MD—HIV viral neutralization, cytokine gene therapy in HIV specific T-cells, HTLV-I and-II mechanisms of Rex protein function
S. R. Kim, PhD—basic immunology of HIV-1 infection
M. E. Melish, MD—staphylococcal infection and toxins, clinical infectious disease, Kawasaki syndrome
F. D. Pien, MD—clinical microbiology, diagnostic bacteriology and parasitology, efficacy of antimicrobial agents
R. C. Rudoy, MD—clinical aspects of viral and bacterial diseases
E. K. Tam, MD—inflammation, immunologic mechanisms of pulmonary diseases, genetic and environmental determinants of asthma
R. Yanagihara, MD—transdisciplinary investigations of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, use of infectious agents as biological markers to trace ancient and recent movements of human populations

Affiliate Graduate Faculty

C. F. T. Uyehara, PhD—developmental and cardiovascular pharmacology

Degrees Offered: MS in biomedical sciences (tropical medicine), PhD in biomedical sciences (tropical medicine)

The Academic Program

Tropical medicine is the study of diseases that occur more commonly in the tropical regions of the world. However, in today’s era of globalization and modern transportation, diseases that were once confined to the tropics have spread geographically and played a significant role in the 20th century global resurgence of infectious diseases. As such, research in the area of tropical medicine and medical microbiology has greatly increased in importance in the past 20 years. Tropical medicine faculty conduct studies on infectious organisms and the diseases they cause, including dengue, West Nile, AIDS, hepatitis, viral and bacterial encephalitis, malaria, tuberculosis and Kawasaki disease. The faculty employs a multidisciplinary approach, including immunology, pathogenesis, ecology, epidemiology, diagnosis, prevention, control, treatment, socio-ecological systems, human ecology, microbial and vector ecology, environmental change, and participatory action research to answer fundamental questions associated with the pathogenesis of these diseases. These studies can be laboratory-based, field-based, clinical-based, or include a combination of all three. The field of tropical medicine requires knowledge of virology, bacteriology, parasitology, entomology, immunology, cell and molecular biology, epidemiology, ecology, behavioral science and clinical medicine.

Pharmacology is a medical science concerned with the effects of drugs and chemicals on living organisms. The subject embraces knowledge of the chemistry, actions, absorption, fate, excretion, and uses of drugs. Traditionally, the greatest interests in drugs have been with the health professions. Today, however, knowledge of pharmacology and the allied field of toxicology are relevant to all segments of society.

Graduate Study

The department offers courses for undergraduate, medical, and graduate students. Faculty participate in the MD program by providing tutorial and elective courses in medical microbiology, clinical immunology, molecular biology, pharmacology, and clinical aspects of tropical medicine and pharmacology. Electives for medical students are team taught and coordinated with unit objectives throughout the problem-based learning curriculum. In addition, the department plays an important role in the Basic Science Foundation course, and participates in the Pathology Residency Program by offering rotations in selected aspects of medical virology, parasitology, and bacteriology.

Master’s Degree

Graduates with a master’s degree have gone on to careers in science education at the secondary and college level, technical and research positions in universities, government agencies and biotechnology companies, or have continued on in PhD and MD training programs at other universities.


The MS degree requires 21 credits of course work, nine credits of thesis research, completion of a thesis and a final oral examination. A general examination, oral or written, is required before a student is advanced to candidacy for the MS (Plan-A) degree. Although not encouraged, in very unusual circumstances, a non-thesis MS (Plan-B) may be allowed. This program requires 30 credits of course work, a written examination and participation in a research project.

Doctoral Degree

Graduates with a PhD degree have pursued professional research, teaching, and administrative careers at various academic institutions, state and federal government agencies, international health agencies, and biotechnology companies.


The PhD program requires course work as determined necessary by the student’s advisory committee, a qualifying examination, comprehensive examination, drafting a written research proposal, dissertation, and final oral examination/defense of dissertation. Students are encouraged to take course work covering a broad array of the disciplines involved in the field of tropical medicine, including coursework offered by other academic departments as relevant to their area of concentration.

The department also participates in the MD/PhD program of the John A. Burns School of Medicine, a joint degree program designed to train aspiring medical scientists who wish to prepare for academic careers. Students seeking admission to the MD/PhD program must fulfill all prerequisites and satisfy all admission requirements of each individual program and be accepted by both the MD program and the tropical medicine doctoral program. Once admitted into the MD/PhD program, students are required to fulfill all of the requirements of the MD and PhD degrees based on a curriculum developed by their major adviser and the JABSOM Office of Student Affairs.


The department faculty conduct active research in the areas of dengue, West Nile and other flavivirus virology and epidemiology, hantavirus virology and epidemiology, lentiviruses and polyomaviruses, epidemiology and pathogenesis of hepatitis-associated viruses, HIV and other retroviruses, molecular epidemiology and evolution of viruses, ecology of infectious diseases, evaluation of Hepatitis B vaccination programs in Asia and Pacific countries, molecular biology, genetics of drug-resistant bacteria, autoimmunity in rheumatic diseases, characterization of Group A streptococcus, and M. tuberculosis in Pacific Islander and Asian populations. Collaboration with infectious disease clinicians and international research institutes further expand research opportunities in the areas of HIV, Kawasaki disease, dengue, arboviruses, and zoonotic viruses. The department supports a regional arbovirus diagnostic laboratory that will provide reference services to laboratories in Asian and Pacific countries.

An important aspect of the department’s research effort is the development and evaluation of vaccines for the prevention of important tropical diseases. The department’s Human Malaria Research Group investigates immunological problems in malaria vaccine development and vaccine-induced and naturally-induced immunity to malaria infection. The group collaborates with other research teams in both academic institutions and in the biotechnology industry, as well as with field site scientists in Papua New Guinea and the Philippines. In addition, the department is developing a field site in Vietnam that will provide the platform to evaluate dengue vaccines and drugs for tropical diseases, and to conduct detailed epidemiologic-, ecologic-, and pathogenetic-related studies.

Other research projects in the department include investigations into the relationship of infectious agents to autoimmune diseases, the genetic factors associated with immunological disease, characterization of Group A streptococcus, the study of immune response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis in Pacific Islander and Asian populations, genetics of drug-resistant bacteria, including M. tuberculosis in Hawaii, ecology of leptospirosis, and evaluation of hepatitis B vaccination programs in Asia and Pacific countries.

The department supports a regional arbovirus diagnostic laboratory that will provide reference services to laboratories in Asian and Pacific countries. A major goal of the department is to provide expertise to build laboratory and epidemiologic capacity in Asian and Pacific countries for tropical infectious diseases.

Research activities in ecology of infectious disease include investigation of the ecological context of water borne and vector borne pathogens. The emphasis is on the integration of molecular, organismal and ecological research methods to better understand the transmission dynamics and behavior of infectious disease. This also includes a research focus on Hawaii’s unique mountain-to-sea catchments as laboratories of infectious disease ecology, and study of the social, environmental, and development factors interacting within these social-ecological systems. The place-based components of this research often incorporate collaborative and participatory rsearch approaches involving local communities, and integrating between the disciplines and sectors relevant to an ecological understanding of infectious disease.

Research activities in pharmacology include studies on plant-derived natural products with a focus on immunostimulation for cancer therapy, mechanisms of protection against vascular injury using animal models of pulmonary oxygen toxicity, and high altitude pulmonary edema.

A major goal of the department is to provide Asian and Pacific countries the expertise needed to expand laboratory and epidemiologic capacity in tropical infectious diseases research. The department also has active research programs with several community hospitals and collaborates closely with the State of Hawai‘i Department of Health, providing instruction and expertise in bioterrorism preparedness and diagnosis of infectious diseases using the latest technology.

TRMD Courses