On May 14, David Agus, MD, professor of medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, founding director of the Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine of USC and director of the USC Center for Applied Molecular Medicine, joined 98 other outstanding luminaries to receive the 2017 Ellis Island Medal of Honor from the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO).

The Ellis Island Medal of Honor commends a select group of individuals whose achievements and exceptional service to our nation embody the American spirit in their patriotism, tolerance, brotherhood and diversity, and is among the nation’s most celebrated awards.

Spirits were high on Ellis Island, with almost 700 guests in attendance for the prestigious event. The Ellis Island Medal of Honor ceremony included speeches from fellow honorees, astronaut Buzz Aldrin and journalist Fareed Zakaria, as well as NECO Chairman Nasser Kazeminy and Master of Ceremonies journalist Marvin Scott, who each stressed the importance of unity and how immigration is an integral part of the American Dream. A black-tie gala immediately followed the award ceremony in the historic original registry room in the Great Hall, a symbolic and literal gateway for 12 million immigrants to the U.S.

“It was a privilege to stand among so many visionaries to receive the Ellis Island Medal of Honor,” Agus said. “Like NECO, I believe that bringing diverse people together will create a stronger, more powerful whole. It is essential that we find a way to come together, both as researchers and as a nation, to find solutions to the health challenges that face us today.”

Agus, who also is a professor at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, joined the USC family in 2009, where he continues to expand his vision to find new ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer and disease.

One of the world’s leading physicians, Agus is well known across many fields. He is the cofounder of several pioneering personalized medicine companies, and he has received acclaim over the past twenty-five years for his innovations in medicine and contributions to new technologies that will change how people maintain optimal health. He is the author of three books on the New York Times Bestsellers list and a contributor to CBS News, where he comments on important health topics regularly on television.

Agus has earned a reputation for looking at the relationship of the human body to health and disease in a unique way. “Sometimes you have to go to war to understand peace,” he explained. “My work on the front lines of the cancer war has taught me a lot about all things health related, much of which is surprising and goes against conventional wisdom.”

USC is home to several Ellis Island Medal of Honor recipients, celebrated for their dedicated service and achievements. Past USC honorees include USC President C. L. Max Nikias, PhD, and Thomas Lee, MD, associate professor of clinical ophthalmology at the Keck School of Medicine, who received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2016 and 2012 respectively.

— Autumn Beemer Phillips