Dozens of Keck School of Medicine of USC faculty joined Keck School Dean Rohit Varma, MD, MPH, and Tom Jackiewicz, MPH, senior vice president and CEO of Keck Medicine of USC, for a recent town hall meeting to discuss the state of the medical school, the results of the Press Ganey physician engagement survey and other subjects important to the faculty community.

Varma opened the July 12 meeting with an overview of the progress made by the Keck School over the last several years. He noted that the school’s budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year is nearing $1 billion and highlighted two key areas of growth over the last year: a 37 percent increase in research grant funding and a 7 percent increase in clinical income.

“Collectively, we’ve seen substantial growth over the last year at the school, and I will say that I am really, really pleased about the research growth that we’ve had,” Varma told the audience.

Tom Jackiewicz addresses physician engagement during the Faculty Town Hall, held July 12 on the Health Sciences Campus. (Photo/Ricardo Carrasco III)

The dean briefly outlined three important faculty recruitments over the last year — Mark E. Davis, PhD, who will be a Provost Professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Medicine; John Oghalai, MD, incoming chair of the USC Tina and Rick Caruso Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery; and Robert Shaddy, MD, who serves as chair of the Department of Pediatrics.

The dean also offered details on the search status for four key positions — chair of ophthalmology, chair of medicine, director of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and chair of preventive medicine.

Varma then reviewed statistics from the most recent graduating class.

“We had 196 medical students match at a rate of 98.5 percent, which is higher than the average in the U.S., with more than half entering the fields of internal medicine, emergency medicine, pediatrics and family medicine,” he said. “More than 71 percent of Keck School students stay in California to practice their specialty, and 26 percent stay at Keck Medicine, which is wonderful news and shows we are an institution not just great at training physicians, but great for training in subspecialties as well.”

The dean noted some important upcoming events, such as November’s reaccreditation process, which occurs every eight years. He encouraged all chairs and key leaders to make themselves available to the licensing board members to discuss the state of the school and future plans.

Support from the university continued to be strong, Varma noted, with the Provost’s office having committed $10 million over the next 18 months to be invested in areas including financial aid and debt management, clinical skills development and education, inter-professional education activities and a “residents as teachers” program to support the instruction efforts of the residents.

Finally, the dean updated the faculty on the development of a strategic plan for the Keck School, noting that, for the first time in the history of the medical school, the completed plan would include input from everyone at the school — faculty, students and staff. The first draft of the plan, which Varma planned to provide by the end of July, would be posted to the Keck School website for review and public comment.

After the first presentation, Jackiewicz offered an overview of the results of the recent Press Ganey physician engagement survey. He noted that participation rates nearly doubled compared to the 2012 survey and included more than four times the number of physician respondents.

“I can’t tell you how important I think this is,” Jackiewicz said. The information gleaned from survey respondents allows the administration “to make the changes where the faculty think the changes need to be made,” he continued.

While the overall scores reflected well on the organization, there were disparities across departments, Jackiewicz noted. “We have a tale of two hospitals and two situations, and we have to make this one great experience for the faculty.”

At the end of the presentations, Varma and Jackiewicz took questions from attendees on a variety of issues. The meeting concluded with both leaders thanking the faculty for their hard work and continued support of the goals of the Keck School. Both leaders intend to host quarterly town hall meetings in the future, administrators said.

To view a recording of the meeting, go to

— Leigh Bailey