Currently, the chiefs of staff at all three Keck Medicine of USC hospitals are women.

This prestigious role is a demanding multi-year position. The chief of staff acts as the medical staff spokesperson, fosters educational activities for them and coordinates with the chief executive officer(s) for the betterment of the hospital. These women bring diverse backgrounds and skillsets to the table, and Keck Medicine is proud to have each of them in this crucial role.

Alison Wilcox, MD, chief of staff at Keck Medical Center of USC 

Wilcox, a radiologist, attended the Keck School of Medicine of USC as a dean’s scholar. She stayed on to complete her residency and fellowship, then joined the Keck School’s radiology department with a specialized interest in cardiothoracic imaging. She later became the program director of the radiology residency program before assuming the role of director of cardiothoracic imaging.

Today, she is the medical director for imaging at Keck Hospital and is starting her second year as the medical center’s chief of staff.

Wilcox first served as the secretary, treasurer and chair of the quality committee of Keck Medical Center. She then spent two years as the vice chief of staff and chair of the integrated peer review committee, a committee that reviews all outcomes at Keck Hospital and USC Norris, before becoming the chief of staff.

“Each of these steps has been incredibly impactful and helpful and brought me to the point where I can be a successful leader,” she said.

Wilcox counters any potential extra scrutiny she might receive as a woman by being extremely discerning in her decisions.

“I think it helps that I’m levelheaded with a lot of common sense, and I like to think I am naturally fair no matter the situation,” she said. “It is also rewarding to hear from women at the hospital that I am a role model for them.”

Happy Khanna, MD, chief of staff at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital (USC-VHH)

Khanna has been a pediatrician at USC-VHH since 1990. She has been responsible for 90% of the births there and is currently chair of the Caduceus Society, a philanthropic group of USC-VHH medical staff.

She celebrated 30 years at the hospital in 2020, the same year she began her two-year tenure as its first woman chief of staff.

“It is a great honor,” she said. “I have a great affinity for USC-VHH hospital.”

Her first year in the role was challenging personally because of a breast cancer diagnosis. Thanks to the care she received at USC-VHH, she is now cancer free.

Khanna never let her illness hold her back. She was quickly back to work as a physician and chief of staff.

Khanna’s first task in this role was to guide physicians through the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that the hospital had enough personal protective equipment, establishing a COVID-19 specific wing and solving a myriad of other immediate issues.

She also successfully furthered the continued collaboration between Keck Medicine physicians and community physicians at the hospital, which has led to a greater cohesiveness among staff.

Khanna believes her secret to success is living up to her first name.

“I am a friendly person who loves to help people,” she said. “A smile and a positive attitude can be a powerful thing.”

Elizabeth Lee, MD, chief of staff at USC Arcadia Hospital

Lee, a general surgeon in Arcadia, has run a private practice for 27 years. She specializes in many forms of surgeries but is currently focused on breast cancer surgery.

She is also medical director of USC Arcadia Hospital’s Wound Healing Center and Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber, where patients receive advanced wound surgery and care, including pure oxygen treatments under increased air pressure to heal chronic wounds.

Lee has held several leadership roles at the hospital, including chief of the surgery department and chair of general and vascular surgery.

She believes the timing of her stint as chief of staff is fortuitous.

“It is very exciting to be my in role during the new affiliation with Keck Medicine,” she said. “I look forward to the new technology and resources Keck Medicine can bring to the hospital that will benefit both our staff and patients.”

She is also proud to serve as a woman.

“The last woman to serve as chief of staff was 29 years ago,” she said. “There are so many bright and motivated women doctors at the hospital, and I hope I encourage them to be part of hospital leadership.”

Her two main goals until her term ends in December are to help foster teamwork and collaboration and to focus on physician wellness.

— Alison Rainey