USC's Keck campus

USC's Keck campus

Dr. Laura Mosqueda told administrators she had “zero interest” in a permanent deanship six months ago, when they asked her to run the troubled office in charge of USC’s Keck School of Medicine.


Laura Mosqueda

The award-winning family physician made an about face in an interview with the Business Journal last week, placing her stethoscope into the ring as a candidate for the top spot at the medical school.

Why the newfound desire to go from interim to permanent head of the school?

“I’ve had the opportunity to see the role a dean can play in creating an environment where everybody can be their best,” said Mosqueda, during an interview at her office at the USC Sciences Campus in Boyle Heights.

Mosqueda would be the first woman dean in the school’s 133-year history, and would run the largest medical school in California, if selected at the end of what USC is calling a nationwide search for a new dean.

She’d also step in at a time of crisis for the medical school. The last two deans resigned amid scandal, with allegations of sexual harassment trailing one and allegations of drug use and erratic behavior trailing the other.

Those episodes have played out over the past two years – and appear to have pinched donations to the medical school. Fundraising during the latter half of last year plummeted 55 percent, or $45 million, according to a Los Angeles Times report. Overall donations to the USC fell by a reported 22 percent, or nearly $100 million, over the same period.

Mosqueda said that some self-reflection by the institution was necessary, but that the medical school is as strong as ever.

“My biggest thing is we need to learn from any mistakes that we’ve made,” Mosqueda said. “There’s no need to demonize people. But there is a need to take an honest look at ourselves. And then move forward. What’s interesting to me is, we never missed a beat.”

Turbulent times

USC’s Keck School of Medicine, founded in 1885, now hold the No. 33 spot on the US News and World Reports 2017 ranking of medical schools in the nation. It is the largest educator of physicians practicing in Southern California, with nearly 800 medical students, 900 resident physicians and 1,000 more students pursuing graduate and postgrad degrees.

The school received $174 million last year in federal health grants.

But the medical school has been tarnished by the scandals tied to its recent deans.

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