An air of renewal charged the proceedings as Laura Mosqueda, MD, was formally installed as dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC before a standing-room only audience. The ceremony took place Aug. 23 on the Health Sciences Campus.

Mosqueda, a noted physician, researcher and advocate for the elderly, was appointed the medical school’s interim dean in Oct. 2017, before officially being named dean in May 2018.

USC’s interim president, Wanda M. Austin, PhD, called Mosqueda “the perfect leader for this moment in the school’s history.”

USC interim President Wanda Austin, left, reacts as Dean Laura Mosqueda tries out her chair during her installation as the dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC on Aug. 23. (Photo/Gus Ruelas)

“When she advocates for seniors, she calls on the better angels of our nature,” Austin said, recounting the new dean’s professional odyssey, which included Mosqueda’s impassioned outrage over systematic failures regarding the care of elders.

Mosqueda recalled her early days as a crusader for improved elder care, saying care team meetings “were like the Tower of Babel. We spoke different languages, came from different work cultures, had different professional missions and goals.”

“Week after week, we built trust, found a common language and forged shared goals,” Mosqueda continued.

A similar ethos of honest communication and hard work colors Mosqueda’s vision as dean of the Keck School. During a speech peppered with warmth and humor, she admitted that she had to shift her perspective when she was made interim dean last year.

“At the time, from my perch as a geriatrician and chair of family medicine, my view of the medical school was about the size of the proverbial elephant’s toe. I had to learn as much as I could as fast as I could about the rest of the elephant if I was going to do this,” Mosqueda remembered.

“As teachers for that crash course, I turned to the most highly-qualified people I could find: you,” Mosqueda said, indicating the faculty and staff in the audience.

“You saw a chance for redemption — how institutions, like people can stumble, and like people can draw on their core values to pull themselves back up and be stronger for it.”

From left, Hilda Solis, Laura Mosqueda and Wanda Austin. (Photo/Ricardo Carrasco III)

Los Angeles County Supervisor and USC alumna Hilda Solis, MPA, shared her hopes that Mosqueda’s vision as dean would “encourage needed change in our community here on this campus,” and restore the school to the status it deserves as “a world-class institution serving the entire county and this entire region.”

Mosqueda spoke to the relationship the Keck School has with the community around it, and how that relationship can produce great things for both the school and Los Angeles itself.

“The rich diversity of our differences, distinctly converging in powerful harmonies, and the quest for justice elevates our work for and with the people of this great metropolis and beyond,” she said. “Those values infuse the work of this medical school with meaning. Their light will guide my service to it, and by the constellation they form we will chart our course forward. Together, we will fight on,” Mosqueda concluded.

In addition to her role as dean, Mosqueda holds the May S. and John H. Hooval Dean’s Chair in Medicine, and will continue as director of the federally funded National Center on Elder Abuse. She is also co-founder of the country’s first Elder Abuse Forensics Center, which organizes collectives of medical, legal, and law enforcement experts to respond to complicated cases of suspected abuse.

— Yancy Jack Berns