Joseph P. Van Der Meulen is stepping down from the position of vice president for health affairs of the Keck School of Medicine, a post he has held since 1977, and from the position of director of the division of Independent Health Professions, which he has held since 1991. The division includes the number-one nationally ranked departments of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy and Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy.
A noted leader in neurology, Van Der Meulen will return full time to academic pursuits as professor in the Department of Neurology on July 1, 2006. In recognition of his many contributions to USC, he will be named vice president emeritus for health affairs.
Van Der Meulen came to USC in 1971 from Case Western Reserve University as a professor of neurology and chair of the Department of Neurology. He was named USC vice president for health affairs in 1977. While vice president, he also served as dean of the USC School of Medicine from 1985-86 and acting dean of the medical school a decade later, from 1996-97.
Among his many contributions to USC, Van Der Meulen has served as the university’s representative to its affiliated hospital partners. He served as chair of the USC University Hospital board of governors and as a board member of USC/Kenneth Norris Jr. Cancer Hospital and other USC-affiliated hospital including Eisenhower Medical Center, Barlow Respiratory Hospital, Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles, Hospital of the Good Samaritan, California Hospital Medical Center and the House Ear Institute.
For almost 30 years, Van Der Meulen also has served as the university’s lead liaison to the County of Los Angeles on USC’s involvement at LAC+USC Medical Center, including the annual and nearly always arduous contract negotiations. Through this process, he became known to many county administrators as “Mr. USC” and to many at USC’s medical school as “Mr. County”.
“Joe Van Der Meulen has made enormous contributions to USC over the years,” said USC President Steven B. Sample. “Not only has he represented the university well as a respected leader in the field of neurology, which he will continue to do, but he has dutifully and tirelessly filled numerous critical administrative roles as he has been called upon by USC.
“We are grateful to Joe for his leadership at USC,” said USC Provost Lloyd Armstrong. “Joe has guided and supported two number-one ranked programs—occupational therapy and physical therapy—and has been at the helm of the medical school on more than one occasion. In working with Joe, I have come to admire his thoughtful leadership style. I look forward to his success as he begins his next endeavors.”
A Boston native, Van Der Meulen attended the Public Latin School. As an undergraduate, he studied mathematics, graduating magna cum laude from Boston College.
He received his medical degree cum laude from Boston University and served his internship in internal medicine at Bellevue Hospital in New York. He received his neurology training at the Harvard Neurological Unit of Boston City Hospital. He subsequently spent two years in Stockholm, Sweden, at the Karolinksa Nobel Institute for Neurophysiology with Ragnar Granit, a Nobel laureate.
Van Der Meulen then served as an associate in neurology at Harvard University and as an associate professor of neurology and biomedical engineering at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
Van Der Meulen also served as a neurologist at the Navy Hospital at Camp Pendleton, where he was also assigned to pediatrics. With thousands of Navy dependents on base, he made his fair share of pediatric night calls and practiced neurology during the day. “I’d see a child with seizures at night, and then I’d refer him to myself the following day,” he said.
His Camp Pendleton experience introduced him to Southern California, and when the opportunity arose to leave Cleveland and go to USC, Van Der Meulen returned with his family.
As chair of neurology from 1971-1979, Van Der Meulen restructured the department and developed a neuroscience research program. As chief physician for neurology at LAC+USC Medical Center, he coordinated neurology training at USC-affiliated Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center and Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles. A specialist in movement disorders, Van Der Meulen’s research focused on tremors, loss of muscle control, Parkinson’s disease and stroke. Throughout the years, he continued to teach and practice clinical neurology. In 1993, the annual Joseph P. Van Der Meulen Symposium in Clinical Neuroscience was established to honor his contributions to the field. In 2003 the neurology library and conference room in the new Healthcare Consultation Center II were named in his honor.
Van Der Meulen plans to make rounds and teach residents and medical students at LAC+USC and to assist the chair of neurology, Helena Chui, in her development of a program in neural recovery and repair.
“The Keck School of Medicine has been extremely fortunate to have received the benefit of Joe’s leadership in so many ways over the years,” said Brian E. Henderson, dean of the Keck School of Medicine. “We are very pleased that he will play an active role in the Department of Neurology, both in terms of teaching students, and for program development.”
Van Der Meulen has garnered numerous honors. In 2000, the Robert J. and Claire Pasarow Foundation gave $1 million that was matched by a W.M. Keck Foundation gift to fund the Joseph P. Van Der Meulen, M.D., Chair in Parkinson’s Disease Research. In 2004, Van Der Meulen received the Barlow Respiratory Hospital Award for 14 years of service as a hospital trustee and his contribution to excellence in health-care leadership. He has also served as chair of the board of the Association of Academic Health Centers.
“Joe Van Der Meulen is a good friend of all of us in the Keck School of Medicine,” said former Keck School Dean Stephen J. Ryan. “A prime example of his leadership has been his outstanding job in guiding the important relationship with Los Angeles County and LAC+USC Medical Center. Joe represented USC in that area through three presidents and four deans. During my deanship, I could always count on him for good advice, especially with L.A. County.”
Van Der Meulen and his wife, Ann, live in Rolling Hills Estates, on a golf course where they play on Sundays. Van Der Meulen is particularly proud of his daughters: Janet, a teacher; Suzanne, who is a lawyer, and Lisa, who trained at USC’s nursing school.
He has received many honors over the years, but Van Der Meulen treasures his family experience the most.
“Having a good, loving relationship with my wife, Ann, who has supported me in all my efforts, and with my daughters and 11 grandchildren has been the greatest joy in my life,” he said.
Van Der Meulen plans to take a one-year sabbatical before returning full time to neurology.