More than 300 alumni, friends, donors and students gathered for the Keck School of Medicine of USC 2019 Scholarship Gala, held March 16 at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. The Scholarship Gala honors exceptional students, faculty and alumni who highlight not only the best in academics and research, but also showcase the commitment to diversity and community involvement that stand as pillars of the Keck School’s core values. The long-standing event provides the unique opportunity for donors to meet with the students and faculty whom they are helping to support and encourage.

“At the Keck School of Medicine, we are focused on the future, and our future is bright,” said Keck School Dean Laura Mosqueda, MD. “In addition to the exceptional faculty members and high rankings for clinical care, the school is making great strides toward educating the medical leaders of the future.”

Mosqueda spoke about the importance of mentorship and training on the Keck School campus. The school currently is undergoing a three-year curriculum renewal process, which will further enable Keck School students to become clinician-citizen-scientist leaders prepared to practice medicine in this ever-evolving world. Mosqueda noted the Keck School’s continuing commitment to more actively engaging and mentoring the students and trainees.

“You can feel the energy that our exceptional clinical and research faculty members bring to our campus, especially when interacting with our students and trainees,” she said with pride. Mosqueda ended her remarks by thanking the generous donors whose support made these scholarships possible. “The good that comes from your support does not end when our students receive their degrees; it reverberates throughout the years as they serve our local community, and communities across the nation and the world, with skill and compassion.”


Recognizing scholarship recipients

During the event, three exceptional third-year medical students who have benefited from scholarship support were profiled. One recipient, Anthony Sanchez, is the son of two deaf parents.  Starting from childhood, Anthony served as an interpreter for his parents in order to ensure that they were receiving the necessary information to manage their medical care appropriately.  He began to see himself as a bridge between the hearing and deaf communities, and it is this bridging role he is most excited about when thinking of his future career as a physician. Anthony also noted that the scholarship that he received has enabled him not only to continue pursuing his studies but also provided him a much-needed emotional boost. “Growing up, money was always on the forefront of their minds. My parents were always struggling financially, so having the opportunity to receive a scholarship has really taken the weight off of my shoulders.”

The second scholarship recipient, Ravali Reddy, took two years off between college and medical school. During that time, she volunteered as a health educator at the San Francisco Women’s Community Clinic, an organization dedicated to providing culturally competent care to women, regardless of their ability to pay.  This experience made Ravali realize that she wanted to be a physician who provided care to female patients irrespective of their socio-economic status — as one woman to another. Ravali said that the scholarship has made all of the difference in alleviating the financial burden so she can focus on her studies and continue on her future career path.

On a medical mission trip with his father, Luke Naman, the third scholarship recipient, saw a great need for medicine in underdeveloped parts of the world. He chose the Keck School for the training he would receive at Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center. He said, “It is training like nowhere else in the country.”  Luke’s career goal is to provide medical care in places where there is a lack of access to medicine. He realizes how much debt the typical medical student incurs and without his scholarship, it would be difficult to practice medicine oversees.  Luke noted, “The scholarship will allow me to pursue my dream to provide medical care to people who need it the most.”


Honoring faculty, alumni

From left, Laura Mosqueda, Brent Allen, Mikel Snow, Althea Alexander, Willa O’Day Olsen, Donna Elliott and Fritz Coleman. (Photo/Steve Cohn)

In addition, the gala included a recognition of the past presidents of the Salerni Collegium Alumni Association, which was celebrating its 60th Anniversary. Awards also were presented to faculty and alumni. Mikel Snow, PhD, professor of clinical integrative anatomical sciences, received the Distinguished Faculty Award, which recognizes an outstanding faculty member for their contribution to the profession. Brent Allen, MD, class of 1965, received the Distinguished Alumni Service Award, which recognizes an individual whose professional or personal accomplishments bring recognition to themselves and to the university.

The Founders Award was presented to Willa O’Day Olsen, MD, which recognizes an individual who has demonstrated exceptional commitment to the Keck School, university and to the community. Dr. Olsen is a widely respected pediatrician who attended USC as an undergraduate and stayed to earn her medical degree in 1962. After graduating, she continued to stay involved with the school, teaching future physicians at LAC+USC Medical Center and joining several alumni and leadership boards affiliated with the university.

The event also honored Althea Alexander, assistant dean of diversity and inclusion, who retired earlier this year after five decades of service to the Keck School.

“When Althea arrived at USC back in 1968, she was surprised to see that the medical school only had one African-American and one Latino student enrolled,” said Miguel Hernandez, MD, a Keck School alumnus who first met Alexander in 1981. “Althea made it her mission to encourage, enroll, retain and graduate minority students from highly underrepresented communities in health care. Through Althea’s tireless efforts and advocacy, the Keck School has graduated over 800 minority medical students.”

Vice Dean for Medical Education Donna Elliott, MD, EdD, said, “Each one of the honorees is special to me and I was honored to be able to talk about their accomplishments and present the awards.”

The gala raised close to $500,000, which will provide funding for six full scholarships. Fritz Coleman, KNBC-TV Channel 4 weathercaster, served as the master of ceremonies for the event. The event was made possible by the generosity of the gala’s underwriters, Helen and Timothy Tai and Terri Wang and Richard Liu.