USC has selected University of Pittsburgh Medical Center executive Steven Shapiro to fill a newly created role to guide the school’s health sciences programs starting May 15.

As senior vice president for health affairs, Shapiro will oversee Keck Medicine of USC and Keck School of Medicine and associated biomedical research programs. He will report directly to USC President Carol Folt.

According to the university’s March 11 announcement, Shapiro will work with the medical enterprise’s senior leadership team to position USC as a key clinical player in the increasingly competitive Los Angeles health care market. He will also helm a well-resourced research program and will help direct the health sciences system to educate the next generation of health care leaders.

“Dr. Shapiro has the perfect background and leadership experience to lead both the Keck Medicine and (the Keck School of Medicine) enterprises and guide the development of USC’s strategic priorities for health and biomedical sciences programs,” Folt said in the announcement.

The new post is also intended to bolster ties between the university and the local bioscience community. Those bonds frayed five years ago with the sudden resignation of Carmen Puliafito, who had been the dean of the Keck School of Medicine.

It was later revealed that Puliafito had attended parties where he used methamphetamine and other drugs with other partygoers. When the university found out, he abruptly resigned, accepting a $1.8 million payout.

Prior to his resignation, Puliafito had emerged as a crucial bridge between USC’s health sciences program and the local community, helping to raise roughly $1 billion for the university’s massive capital campaign.

According to Folt, the hope is that Shapiro will restore some of those ties.

“The new leadership and board governance structure we now have in place will lead to greater collaboration and alignment across the university and increase the positive impact we can have in our community,” she said in the announcement.

Shapiro spent 15 years at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. He most recently led the health services division that encompasses 40 hospitals and more than 7,000 physicians. He also helped lead a research program that grew to rank in the top six in the nation in medical research funding.

Shapiro said in the announcement that he aims to bring similar success to USC.

“This is a critical time in health care where only a select few institutions will have the ability to take advantage of the great advances in science to provide markedly improved clinical care, if not cure intractable diseases,” he said. “USC and Keck Medicine are poised to lead this transformation, and I am proud to join this great leadership team.

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