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Administrator has health center on his mind

Larry Neinstein, professor of pediatrics and medicine, senior associate dean of Student Affairs and executive director of the USC Engemann Student Health Center (USC Photo/Nathan Carter)

The grand opening of the USC Engemann Student Health Center in January was the culmination of 18 years of hard work and dedication by Larry Neinstein.

“I’m really proud of this building. You would be hard pressed to find a student health center that is better than this one,” said Neinstein, professor of pediatrics and medicine, senior associate dean of Student Affairs and executive director of the Student Health Center.

“When I came here, I wasn’t happy with the health center,” Neinstein admitted. But he quotes numbers that show how, through the years, the health center has both expanded and improved its services. It has gone from 500 immunizations a year to close to 20,000 and from 30,000 students visits a year to 91,000.

Ever since Neinstein arrived at USC in 1995, the health center has been improving. It went partially paperless in 1997 and completely electronic in 2008. In 1999, it became accredited and has continued to pass the accreditation process every three years, as required.

“We’re going through national guidelines in everything that we do to demonstrate that we do them in the right way with the right policies and procedures in place complying with the California laws,” he said. “Only about 10 percent of student health centers are accredited. It demonstrates that you care about quality.”

The new health center has taken USC campus health care to the next level and serves as a benchmark for other universities looking to rebuild their own health centers. Bringing several units under one roof, it unites primary, urgent and specialty care; Student Counseling Services; Wellness and Health Promotion; student health insurance; support services; the faculty-staff clinic; and physical and occupational therapy. It’s also adjacent to the dental clinic.

Neinstein’s reputation in medicine extends past the USC campus. He’s a past president of the Society of Adolescent Medicine who received the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award in adolescent health. He’s working on the sixth edition of his book, Adolescent Health Care: A Practical Guide, has developed an adolescent health curriculum that is accessed annually by more than 250,000 people worldwide and has written a white paper on emerging young adults that will be presented next month at the Institute of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

“What is remarkable about Larry is that he is one of the nation’s leading experts on adolescent medicine, having written one of the seminal textbooks in his field, which has been published in several foreign languages. It is considered the ‘bible’ in his field and used to educate doctors around the world,” said Michael L. Jackson, vice president for Student Affairs. “Larry is also a very caring leader who inspires his staff by setting a good example of hard work, forward thinking and continuing to stay current in his field.”

In the future, Neinstein would like to see a major endowment for USC to create the healthiest campus in the country.

“You create, through the endowment, spinoff programs in every aspect that are innovative — whether it be mental health, substance abuse, reproductive health or overall wellness, where you subsidize fruits and vegetables so they’ll be cheap or free on campus,” he said. “You have Weight Watchers and cooking classes and an academic component that analyzes all of the interventions to see what works and what doesn’t. If I had one more thing to do, it would be to create that kind of an impact on this campus community.”

In addition to keeping the Trojan Family healthy, Neinstein is the proud father of three alumni of USC’s professional schools — Yael (MBA), Aaron (M.D.) and David (J.D./MBA). Neinstein is also finishing up a children’s holiday book inspired by his granddaughter and has additional plans to write a book on health for men over 50 as well as a mystery yarn.

In his spare time, he keeps himself busy as a “mega traveler” whose upcoming destinations include Buenos Aires and Machu Picchu.

“There’s a great quote by George Carlin: it’s not how many breaths you take — it’s the moments that take your breath away,” Neinstein said. “I’ve had one moment after another that have taken my breath away. So it’s been good.”

Administrator has health center on his mind

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