President Steven B. Sample has named health care executive Leonard D. Schaeffer the Judge Widney Professor and Chair at USC.
The appointment is one of the most prestigious at USC. It is named for Judge Robert Maclay Widney, a founding father of USC. Schaeffer is the second person to hold the Judge Widney Chair, after U.S. Senior District Judge Dick Tevrizian Jr.
Schaeffer is known for his work as founding chairman and chief executive officer of WellPoint, where he transformed an organization faced with bankruptcy into the largest publicly traded commercial health care company in the United States.
Originally known as Blue Cross of California, WellPoint has annual revenues of more than $56 billion. It serves serving 35 million Americans with pharmacy benefits, dental plans and mental health plans.
“His determination and foresight created the nation’s leading health benefits company,” said Provost C. L. Max Nikias. “We are honored to have this accomplished visionary serving as a distinguished member of the USC faculty.”
In his new role, Schaeffer hopes he can encourage students to find an area where they can impact health care policy as well as practice � which he believes creates the richest possible approach.
“One of the purposes of education is the opportunity to learn not just about your academic area, but to learn about yourself and where you can create the most value for society,” he said. “USC provides a good background and basis for students to make decisions that will have a real impact.”
Prior to his time at WellPoint, Schaeffer was the administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where he was responsible for bringing the Medicare and Medicaid offices together.
“Schaeffer recognized that together Medicare and Medicaid could be leveraged to create purchasing and regulatory power to transform the entire health care industry,” said professor Glenn Melnick, holder of the Blue Cross of California Chair in Health Care Finance. “Schaeffer’s reforms led to the biggest single change in hospital reimbursement since 1965, which slowed the rate of hospital cost increases at the time.”
Schaeffer is a longtime friend of USC.
“He has done an outstanding job serving on the School of Policy, Planning, and Development board of councilors for nearly 20 years,” said Jack H. Knott, the C. Erwin and Ione L. Piper Dean and Professor. “He is an exceptional teacher, and on several occasions, he has taught leadership management in health care to USC students.”
Following his retirement from WellPoint in 2005, Schaeffer has continued to remain active in academia while shaping public policy in Washington. In addition to holding the Widney Chair at USC, he serves on the boards of the Brookings Institution, RAND Health and on the Board of Fellows at Harvard Medical School.
He writes for and serves on the editorial board of the peer-reviewed journal, Health Affairs, a leading national publication on health care issues.
“I am interested in the issues surrounding the aging of America � social security, health care and how society will operate when more people are eligible for government programs and fewer are working and paying taxes,” he said.
This spring, Schaeffer will co-teach “Leadership Symposium in Health Management and Policy,” a graduate course at SPPD.