USC Keck School of Medicine dean to step down after 3 years
The dean of USC’s Keck School of Medicine will step down after not quite three years in her post, the university announced on Monday, marking a change of leadership during a pandemic that has altered healthcare and brought upheaval to American higher education.
Dr. Laura Mosqueda’s last day as dean will be Sept. 15. The physician will take on a new role focusing on geriatric healthcare and elder justice, “part of USC’s long-term growth plan for our entire healthcare system,” according to a memo issued by Provost Charles Zukoski.
No further reason was provided for Mosqueda’s departure as dean. Zukoski said in his memo that Dr. Narsing Rao, the chair of USC’s ophthalmology program, would take over as interim dean while the university searched for a permanent replacement.
“Serving as dean of the Keck School of Medicine has been an honor,” Mosqueda said in a statement issued by the university’s press office. “I look forward to working with Interim Dean Rao on a smooth transition and to returning to geriatrics at a time when the field is poised for exponential growth and innovation.”
The senior leadership of the university has gradually changed since Dr. Carol Folt took over as president last summer, with a new provost, general counsel, athletic director and human resources executive. Tom Jackiewicz, the longtime CEO of USC’s health system, Keck Medicine, also stepped down in June to take a job as president of the University of Chicago Medical Center, leaving another open vacancy that USC is seeking to fill.
Mosqueda was named the interim dean in the fall of 2017, a time of tremendous tumult. She took over permanently the following year.
In the summer of 2017, the Los Angeles Times detailed how a former dean, Dr. Carmen Puliafito, led a double life of abusing drugs and partying with young addicts while running the renowned medical school. The revelations angered and embarrassed students and faculty, and ultimately prompted the Medical Board of California to revoke Puliafito’s license to practice.
Puliafito’s successor, Dr. Rohit Varma, was ousted in October 2017 after The Times reported on how USC had appointed him as dean despite disciplining him about 15 years earlier for allegedly sexually harassing a junior researcher. The woman accused Varma of making unwanted sexual advances during a trip to a conference and then retaliating against her for reporting him, according to personnel records and interviews. USC paid her more than $100,000 and temporarily blocked Varma from becoming a full member of the faculty, according to the records and interviews.
But sanctions were rolled back in 2004. Varma was installed as dean of the Keck School of Medicine in early 2017, but he did not finish out the year.
Zukoski credited Mosqueda with shepherding Keck and repairing its culture.
“She stepped into her current role at a turbulent time for [the medical school], and with her characteristic intelligence, warmth, and humor, stabilized the school and helped restore a sense of calm and trust,” Zukoski said in his memo.
The provost lauded Mosqueda for the Keck School’s new programs on social justice, community engagement and gender equity in science and medicine. She was also praised for leading the medical school through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and establishing research into the disease with the help of a $4-million gift from the W.M. Keck Foundation.
The provost tied Mosqueda’s return to focusing on geriatrics to COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on the elderly.
“Dean Mosqueda’s deep knowledge, innovations, and leadership skills will be invaluable to the University, the medical profession, and communities in reassessing and reshaping programs” in geriatrics, Zukoski wrote.