USC is poised for significant growth in health sciences — including a targeted philanthropic campaign to support a major research hub, boost interdisciplinary collaboration across the university and raise funds for student debt relief and faculty retention, President Carol L. Folt said Wednesday in the second of two State of the University speeches.
Folt shared details with health sciences employees, who represent almost half of the overall university’s people and resources, while also praising their tireless dedication.
“We are back — although I say that knowing that many of you have never left,” Folt said from the Broad Lawn at the Health Sciences Campus. “We all turned on a dime to implement policies to protect the health and safety of our people.”
Folt highlighted the accomplishments of USC employees and students who administered many of the COVID-19 vaccines in Los Angeles. She also cited teams that quickly deployed technologies to support screening and safety, telehealth and clinical training.
As a result, she said, COVID-19 cases were “remarkably low” on both campuses.
These successes and collective resilience have set the stage for USC to roll out four substantial “moonshot” goals — including an expansion in health sciences — that Folt first announced last week.
Campaign to grow, evolve Health Sciences Campus with expansion
Folt spoke about the coming USC Campaign for Health — an effort to raise philanthropic support to double the university’s overall research portfolio and increase the scale of Keck Medicine of USC.
“Size makes a difference in health care and health sciences,” Folt said.
Low-interest capital loans obtained during the pandemic will allow the expansion, which includes building new research space, hiring new faculty and reducing debt for students, to launch quickly.
The campaign will focus on strengthening collaboration between USC’s five health-related schools, representing 55% of the university’s total research, and with other schools across the university.
By further involving USC experts in fields such as engineering and media, “we can … address the giant health challenges that we face so that we can truly expand our research,” Folt said.
State of the University: Record-setting research
During the pandemic, USC researchers published 275 studies on the impact of the virus, Folt said. She praised those working under tight deadlines to advance public health in unprecedented times.
“Our researchers kept pushing their scholarship and their creative enterprises, even under the most trying conditions,” Folt said.
Among other research highlights:
- 43% of funds sought by USC researchers have been awarded.
- The university is now recognized as a top 20 awardee for federal research dollars.
- For the first time, the university joined the “billion-dollar club” for external research funding.
Folt also congratulated 24 Health Sciences Campus junior faculty who received National Institutes of Health Early-Stage Investigator Awards, and she recognized USC faculty selected to serve on President Joe Biden’s National Cancer Advisory Board.
New faces of leadership across USC
Folt outlined recent changes at the highest organizational levels, including the creation of the new Health System Board and the hiring of Steve Shapiro, who began in March 2021 as the first senior vice president for health affairs of USC.
Folt also recognized Rod Hanners, who was named CEO of Keck Medicine and president and CEO of the USC Health System in September 2021: “We are all so thankful for Rod,” Folt said. “His sense of calm and competence were greatly needed during those pretty tough and uncertain times.”
Folt warmly welcomed new Keck School of Medicine Dean Carolyn Meltzer, who began her position in March. Three other new deans were also noted: Emily Roxworthy of the USC School of Dramatic Arts; Thanassis Rikakis of the USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy; and Dana Goldman of the USC Price School of Public Policy.
Folt congratulated Sarah Van Orman, who was recently awarded the Presidential Medallion for her leadership with USC Student Health and for increasing the availability of mental health services.
And she offered deep appreciation for departing leaders Laura Mosqueda, former dean of the Keck School of Medicine, and former interim Dean Narsing Rao.
Folt closed the speech by emphasizing that advancing health sciences is a collective effort.
“I believe the true measure of our worth will always be in how well we take care of each other and our planet for this brief time that we are here,” Folt said. “Maybe most importantly right now, how we leave it for the multitudes who will follow us.”