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Keck School establishes Division of Health Sciences Education

(From left) Elahe Nezami and Debbi L. Johnson have been tapped to lead the new division.

A new Division of Health Sciences Education has been established at the Keck School of Medicine within the Office of Research Advancement, announced Dean Carmen A. Puliafito and M. Elizabeth Fini, vice dean for research advancement.

“The new division reinforces the Keck School’s commitment to excellent undergraduate and post-graduate education for students,” said Puliafito.

The new Health Sciences Education division consists of two components:
� the Office of Undergraduate, Master’s & Professional Degree Programs, headed by Elahe Nezami, who has been appointed to the position of associate dean;
� the Office of Graduate Programs, headed by Debbie L. Johnson, associate dean for Graduate Programs.

“Dr. Nezami and Dr. Johnson bring a tremendous amount of experience in administration, the classroom and research,” said Fini. “They exemplify the Keck School’s dedication to innovative education, and their leadership will ensure an educational experience that explores biomedical sciences and global health in the 21st century.”

Nezami is an associate professor of clinical preventive medicine at the Keck School. Since 1997, she has served as the director of the undergraduate program in health promotion and disease prevention studies, the first and only undergraduate major housed within the Keck School of Medicine. Under her leadership, this program has created a professionally focused interdisciplinary major that offers students a broad view of issues affecting health and wellness.

“Based on her success in leading this program, she is well positioned to develop and enhance master’s and professional degree programs within the Keck School, including the newly established Master of Science in Global Medicine,” said Fini.

Nezami identified several goals for her office, including collaborating with faculty to find ways to impart their expertise to students at all degree levels, incorporating research into all levels of learning for students, and fostering and incentivizing faculty to create new programs.

“To compete with the plethora of academic opportunities in medicine that exist today, we need to be sure that USC offers education that has both fundamental importance to students’ understanding of medicine, said Nezami. “The importance of research and prevention to the future of medicine cannot be understated, and as such we are responsible for preparing tomorrow’s health care professionals with the most pertinent knowledge for keeping our world healthy.”

A respected professor and scientist at USC since 1985, Johnson is professor of biochemistry and molecular biology. Since 2001, she has served as director of the Graduate Program in Biomedical and Biological Sciences (PIBBS), USC’s highly successful recruitment mechanism that further supports the Ph.D. students through their first year as they choose a mentor and graduate program. In her role as Associate Dean, she has developed programs to optimize the academic success of current doctoral candidates while raising the caliber of incoming students.

The Office of Graduate Programs oversees and administers all Ph.D. programs for the Keck School of Medicine, including the PIBBS program, and the two interdisciplinary programs in Genetic, Molecular and Cellular Biology and in Systems Biology and Disease. Both interdisciplinary programs train students in a broad and flexible manner and prepare them for careers in modern biomedical research.

“USC is a great place to do science,” said Johnson. “People here really care about graduate education and the success of the students. We are competitive in our science, but we aren’t competitive with each other. That’s what is special about USC – it’s just an extremely collaborative environment.”

Johnson has put in place new programs designed to maximize and enhance graduate programs, and plans to take additional steps including improving support mechanisms for new students, creating a general admissions committee to review all Ph.D. students, improving career-counseling options for students and ensuring consistency and fairness in courses and across programs.

The Division of Health Sciences Education will receive additional oversight and guidance from Judy A. Garner, senior associate dean for faculty affairs at the Keck School and associate provost for faculty development for the university.

Keck School establishes Division of Health Sciences Education

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