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Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology

Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology

John A. Burns School of Medicine
651 Ilalo Street
Honolulu, HI 96813
Tel: (808) 692-1600


*Graduate Faculty

*V. R. Nerurkar, PhD (Chair)—pathogenesis of infectious diseases, delineating cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying microbe-host interaction
*S. P. Chang, PhD—immunology, molecular biology, molecular approaches to vaccine development
*W. L. Gosnell, PhD—host parasite interactions, malaria, immunology
S. H. Gu, PhD—hantavirology
V. Hinshaw, PhD—influenza virus epidemiology, pathogenicity, immunology and vaccines
*G. S. N. Hui, PhD—parasitology, immunology, cell biology
*P. H. Kaufusi, PhD—pathogenesis of West Nile virus
J. F. Kelley, PhD—pathogenesis of flaviviruses
*M. Kumar, PhD—virus host interaction
*A. Lehrer, PhD—molecular biology, virology, immunology
*F. Mercier, PhD—mechanisms controlling neural stem cell proliferation and differentiation in the adult brain
*F. D. Miller, PhD—epidemiology of infectious diseases
*L. Ndhlovu, MD, PhD—HIV immunology
*B. Shiramizu, MD—pathology of HIV-associated disorders
*K J. Kallianpur Tata, PhD—brain imaging, neuroaids, HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder
*D. W. Taylor, PhD—immunology of malaria in pregnant women and newborns
*S. Verma, PhD—molecular, biochemical aspects of viral diseases
*P. Walpita, PhD—paramyxoviruses, virus-like particles, vaccines
*W-K. Wang, DSc—pathogenesis of arboviral and zoonotic viruses
*A. Yanagihara, PhD—biochemistry of cubozoan venom

Cooperating Graduate Faculty

J. M. Berestecky, PhD—enteric bacteria
J. J. Chen, PhD—biostatistics
B. Hernandez, PhD—human papilloma virus, hepatitis virus, viral carcinogenesis, epidemiology
Y. Lu, PhD—gene therapy for HIV-1 infection, gene transfer approaches for neuroAIDS, immunodiagnosis of herpesvirus infection of green turtles, aquaculture virology
M. E. Melish, MD—staphylococcal infection and toxins, clinical infectious disease, Kawasaki syndrome
S. Prisic, PhD—molecular pathogenesis of myobacterium tuberculosis
C. Shikuma, MD—infectious diseases, AIDS
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

Adjunct Faculty

V. E. Ansdell, MD—tropical and infectious diseases and clinical microbiology
M. J. Bankowski, PhD—clinical and molecular microbiology and infectious disease
S. N. Bennett, PhD—molecular evolution and epidemiology of emerging infectious diseases
B. R. Ellis, PhD—arbovirus and virus-vector interrelationships
A. Imrie, PhD—dengue immunology and epidemiology
J. Kim, MD—HIV vaccine development
A. T. Lehrer, PhD—viral vaccine development
M. M. Lieberman, PhD—arbovirus and vaccinology

Affiliate Graduate Faculty

. C. Collier, PhD—drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics using in vivo, in vitro and in silico approaches, reproductive pharmacology
J. Honda, PhD
K. L. Palmer, PhD—global public health and tropical diseases

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 in tropical medicine 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 tropical medicine 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 course work offered by other academic departments as relevant to their area of concentration.


Department faculty conduct active research in the following areas:

  • virology and epidemiology of dengue, West Nile, and other flaviviruses
  • diagnostic assays for flaviviruses
  • hantavirus virology and epidemiology
  • lentiviruses and polyomaviruses
  • epidemiology and pathogenesis of hepatitis-associated viruses
  • pathobiology and immunology of HIV and other retroviruses
  • molecular epidemiology and evolution of viruses
  • vaccines against paramyxoviruses using virus-like particles
  • evaluation of hepatitis B infection and vaccination programs
  • molecular and clinical epidemiology of streptococcal and staphylococcal infections
  • malaria immunology and vaccine development
  • malaria in pregnancy, maternal, and childhood immunity to malaria
  • reproductive and developmental pharmacology
  • emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases

Collaboration with infectious disease clinicians and international research institutes further expand research opportunities in the areas of HIV, Kawasaki disease, malaria, asthma, dengue, arboviruses, and zoonotic viruses. Research projects take place within the research laboratories in the department and at field sites in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific.

Pharmacology research within the department focuses on drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics. Research into developmental pharmacology in pregnancy and pediatric medicine is also a strong theme. The newly established human organ bank, in partnership with Organ Donor Center of Hawai‘i, is a central part of our translational research effort and provides tissues to researchers throughout the UH Manoa and JABSOM campuses.

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.

PHRM Courses

TRMD Courses