Business leader and USC Trustee Rick J. Caruso and his wife, Tina, have donated $25 million to endow and name the USC Tina and Rick Caruso Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, one of the nation’s largest and most highly ranked for research and treatment of diseases of the ear, nose and throat.
The Carusos’ exceptionally generous gift also names and endows the department’s affiliated treatment center for young children with severe hearing loss. This funding for the USC Caruso Family Center for Childhood Communication will enable the center to expand its leadership as the region’s top resource for testing and therapies that enable children to hear.
“This gift reflects the Caruso family’s far-reaching and passionate commitment to USC,” said USC President C. L. Max Nikias. “As benefactors, Rick and Tina Caruso inspire so many throughout Los Angeles and our nation, and we should all warmly applaud their philanthropic vision, their dedication to medical discovery, and the profound breadth of their generosity.”
The USC Caruso Department serves patients facing a range of conditions affecting the head and neck, such as cancer, thyroid disease, facial paralysis, chronic sinusitis and tumors of the cranial base. As a key program within the department, the Caruso Family Center’s life-changing technologies and services allow children to experience sounds — from their parents’ voices to music, laughter and nature — often for the very first time.
“Early intervention is critical to ensure that children with hearing loss develop their speech and language skills,” said John K. Niparko, MD, the holder of the Leon J. Tiber and David S. Alpert Chair in Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and chair of the USC Caruso Department. “There is an early window of opportunity when sound exposure empowers a child to learn to comprehend and connect information from speech and the environment. Tina and Rick Caruso have a profound understanding of these concerns and are compassionate believers in the importance of this work. Generations of children will bear the imprint of their generosity.”
With a daughter impacted by hearing loss at birth, the Carusos have experienced first-hand the challenges of early-onset hearing loss. The Carusos’ daughter, Gianna, now a teenager, was born with mild to moderate hearing loss, and doctors and therapists have worked closely with her ever since. Although Gianna could hear some sounds with assistance, she relied on reading lips to ensure she understood what was being said. This presented challenges in daily life, including in the classroom. This all changed when Gianna experienced a miracle last year, Caruso said, after she saw the team of USC doctors who provided her with a new highly sensitive hearing device that was inserted into her ear canal.
“The minute the hearing device went in, there was a huge difference. Gianna immediately started crying — all of us started crying,” Caruso said. “It was a life-changer.”
Caruso said he believes that with the endowment, USC has the potential to help thousands of children — and perhaps millions of people who have suffered hearing loss — to hear for the first time, or to ultimately cure hearing loss altogether. It will also bolster the depth of the department’s research and help expand treatment options for hearing loss, which is the third most-common diagnosis affecting mankind, behind arthritis and hypertension. About 30 million Americans suffer hearing loss of varying severity.
“Hearing loss is a shared disability,” Niparko said. “And one thing that we have learned from the Caruso family is that digital hearing devices are responsive and nimble devices that restore tonal hearing. But when paired with the awareness and support of family and friends, the results can be extraordinary.”
The USC Caruso Department of Otolaryngology currently ranks among the Top 10 nationwide in federal research funding.
Rick Caruso, a highly respected business and community leader, is the founder and chief executive officer of one of the nation’s largest privately held real estate companies, Caruso Affiliated. The company’s holdings include The Grove, The Americana at Brand and The Commons at Calabasas, among others. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree with honors from the USC Marshall School of Business. He joined the USC Board of Trustees in 2007 and serves in several leadership positions with the USC board. He also serves on the board of councilors for the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy.
With this gift, the Carusos build on a broad legacy of support to USC that spans nearly four decades and includes more than $35 million in philanthropic gifts. It also further advances The Campaign for the University of Southern California, a multiyear effort that seeks to raise $6 billion or more in private philanthropy to advance USC’s academic priorities and expand its positive impact on the community and world. Just 41/2 years after its launch, the campaign has raised more than $4.2 billion.