PRESS RELEASE:  25 February 2015

Toleafoa Dr. Viali Lameko (Photo: supplied)

Toleafoa Dr. Viali Lameko
(Photo: supplied)

Oceania University of Medicine has named Toleafoa Dr. Viali Lameko as its fourth Vice Chancellor and the first Samoan to hold this office.  Dr. Lameko most recently served as Director of the Clinical Program and Senior Lecturer for the Faculty of Medicine at the National University of Samoa (NUS).

“We are absolutely thrilled that Dr. Lameko is returning to OUM to lead it to new heights in the coming years,” says Taffy Gould, OUM’s founder and Chairman of the OUM Council.

Dr. Lameko served as OUM’s Director of Clinical Studies and Associate Professor from 2009 to 2013, at which time the Government of Samoa assumed management of OUM’s undergraduate MBBS program for secondary school graduates which subsequently came under the direction of NUS’s newly formed Faculty of Medicine.

Since opening in 2002, OUM has continuously operated its graduate-entry medical degree programs for students with bachelor’s degrees.   Though seven Samoans have graduated from OUM with MBBS degrees, a majority of OUM’s graduates and students have been from Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.  The scientific and clinical knowledge part of the curriculum is taught online, and the clinical skills portion of the curriculum is taught in teaching hospitals, such as TupuaTamaseseMeaole Hospital in Apia and others in the students’ home countries.  Graduates of OUM now receive a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree.

“I am truly humbled by this opportunity,” says Dr. Lameko.  “And looking forward to working again with OUM as it strengthens its presence in Samoa and the South Pacific region.”

Licensed to practice medicine in Samoa, Dr. Lameko is a member of both the Samoa Medical Association and the Samoa Medical Council. He has been a temporary advisor to both the Western Pacific branch of the World Health Organization and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community on a number of health related issues, such as obesity, public health law, and chronic diseases.  Dr. Lameko was also a recipient of the Commonwealth Leadership Conference, Pacific Island Future Leadership Tour, and the Pacific Forum Greg Urwin Pacific Leadership Award.

In Samoa, Dr. Lameko holds his High Chief Title of Toleafoa from the village of Fasito’otaiand Oratory Chief Title of Manu-Falealili, from the village of Sapunaoa in the District of Falealili.

Since its inception, OUM has had scholarship students from Samoa and the South Pacific, with seven graduates as practicing physicians and four additional scholarship students who will serve the region upon graduation.  One of Dr. Lameko’s priorities will be to expand opportunities for Samoan and Pasifikastudents and to increase the number of clinical clerkships for its students and internships for its graduates.

“Dr. Viali was a great support to me during both my student rotations in Samoa and as an Intern,” says Dr. Vicki-Lee Jefferson, a 2012 OUM graduate who is completing her residency in Australia.  “He always responded to my concerns and queries promptly and provided excellent teaching and mentoring. He will be a great Vice Chancellor for OUM as he really cares about the medical students.”

Popular with Students
Known to students as “Dr. Viali,” Dr. Lameko has been a favorite among OUM students for years.

“Dr. Viali enriched my recent Samoan TTM clerkships by sharing his knowledge,” says Paris Pearce, a fourth-year OUM student who rotated in Apia last year and also serves as President of the OUM Student Association.  “I found Dr. Viali to be approachable and someone I looked up to as a mentor. I feel very privileged to have worked with him and I hope our paths cross again.”

“Dr. Viali absolutely deserves the post, as he is committed and focused with the welfare of students always uppermost in his agenda,” says Dr. Vivian Ndukwe, a 2012 OUM graduate now serving as a third-year hospital medical officer in Box Hill Hospital Melbourne, Australia.

Also a Student
In addition to earning a Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) from Fiji School of Medicine in 1999 and a Master of International Public Health from the University of Sydney (Australia) in 2008, Dr. Lameko is finishing up his PhD from Walden University in the United States.  His dissertation title appropriately is “Cultural Influences on Dietary Behaviour among Samoan Adults.”

“Even though dissertations are extremely difficult, this one has been a labor of love for me—so that I could better understand how to improve the health of my country,” says Dr. Lameko, who will continue to work as a specialist in Internal Medicine at TTM Hospital. “The new contemporary Samoan diet does not work well with our current lifestyle.”

Part of Dr. Lameko’s agenda is for OUM to conduct research that will improve the health of people in Samoa and in other countries where the University’s faculty and students live.

A New Leadership Model for OUM
Based in Apia, Dr. Lameko will be assisted by two American colleagues who will head the academic and administrative areas of the University.  Both of those individuals will be named in the coming weeks.

“These three leaders will be able to position OUM to improve and grow in the next decade,” says Ms. Gould.  “We will soon be naming a Chancellor from Australia who will provide the perspective of that important country as well as serve as a mentor to Viali and our leadership team as they set new plans in place for the future.”

The deans, faculty, and academic staff will report to the Deputy Vice Chancellor.  The admissions and student affairs staff, in addition to the registrar and bursar, will report to the Director of Administration.

The Steering Committee, which has managed OUM for the last two years, will continue to function as a forum for University leaders to communicate and coordinate their plans and activities.  The Academic Board, which statutorily sets and reviews academic policies and protocols, will continue as it has with faculty, administrative, and student participation.

The OUM Council, the University’s governing body which is comprised of members in Samoa and the United States, approved Dr. Lameko’s appointment and will work closely with him as he proposes his plans for OUM.

“We have been contemplating these changes in leadership for quite some time and they were made in consultation with PAASCU as part of their re-accreditation site visits over the past couple of months,” says Ms. Gould.

It is anticipated that the re-accreditation site visits will be complete in May.

OUM is accredited by the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU), listed in the World Health Organization’s World Directory of Medical Schools, and recognized by the Education Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates. Located in Apia, Samoa, OUM offers the MD degree to its current student body of approximately 150 from nine countries. Graduates are receiving their post-graduate residency and internship specialty training at teaching hospitals in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Samoa, and the United States. For more information about OUM, visit www.oum.edu.ws.

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