By Ryan Ball

Warner stepped down as chair of pathology in 1983 to practice surgical pathology at the USC Norris Cancer Center, but she has continued to teach at the Keck School of Medicine. Photo/Ryan Ball

Nancy Warner
Photo/Ryan Ball

Picking at her smoked salmon with chopsticks at the faculty center named for Hugh A. Edmondson, MD, who preceded her as chair of the Department of Pathology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, Nancy Warner, MD, Hastings Professor of Pathology, emerita, reflects on her legacy at the school.

At the age of 90, Warner remains a formidable presence, one that has been felt on the Health Sciences Campus since she became the school’s first female department chair in 1972. In fact, she was the first woman in the United States to be named chair of a pathology department at a coeducational school of medicine.

“That just wasn’t done back then,” Warner said of her groundbreaking appointment. “The people in the department were very gracious, all of them. There were some big professors, and I didn’t know how they were going to take it. But there was no problem.”

Warner was selected to succeed the retiring Edmondson by then Keck School Dean Franz K. Bauer, MD, whose wife and mother both had medical degrees. She believes they put more than a little pressure on him to consider a female candidate. Likewise, she would be going against the grain at the time, recruiting a number of women to faculty positions.

Originally from Dixon, Ill., where Ronald Reagan was the town’s lifeguard, Warner earned her medical degree from the University of Chicago. She was inspired to go into pathology by the school’s two female pathologists, who were highly respected.

During her 11-year tenure as chair of the largest university-based pathology department in the nation, Warner would, in turn, be a role model for students
at USC.

Warner stepped down as chair of pathology in 1983 to practice surgical pathology at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. Meanwhile, she continued to teach, which she said has been one of the great joys in her life.

Named outstanding teacher by USC’s Year II medical students four times, Warner also received The American Society of Clinical Pathologists’ Distinguished Pathology Educator Award in 1994 and USC’s Distinguished Emeriti Award in 1996.

Although she officially retired in 1993, Warner has remained active at the Keck School. That dedication earned her the Emeriti Center’s 2009 Inaugural Paul E. Hadley Faculty Award for Service to USC.

In addition to her work on the board of directors for the Edmondson Faculty Center, the Retired Faculty Association and the Medical Faculty Women’s Association, she has given generously to the university. Dividend reinvestment from inherited stock has allowed her to offer support for a number of USC initiatives, including several Keck School programs and the USC Norris Cancer Hospital.

Warner lives in Pasadena where she enjoys photography, birdwatching and genealogy.