Narsing Rao, MD, has officially become interim dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC, bringing his decades of experience as a clinician, researcher and educator.

Rao succeeds Laura Mosqueda, MD, who served in the position since October 2017, when she was named interim dean. She took over officially in May 2018 as the first woman dean in the school’s history.

“[Rao] proves that being an outstanding scientist, superb clinician-educator and wonderful human being are not mutually exclusive. I know he will also bring those attributes to his service as interim dean,” Mosqueda said.

Rao, who has been on the Keck School faculty since 1983, is the Grace and Emery Beardsley Professor of Ophthalmology. He steps down from his post as chair of ophthalmology. J. Martin Heur, MD, PhD, professor of clinical ophthalmology, has been named interim chair of the department.

Rao has made numerous important scientific contributions to the field and has published more than 500 peer-reviewed publications, 49 book chapters and seven books. His work has attracted highly competitive funding from the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health for more than 25 years. He has received international recognition for his work including numerous prestigious awards from ophthalmological societies. He previously led several international ocular inflammation societies as president. In 2020, Rao received the International Gold Award of the Chinese Ophthalmological Society. In September 2020, Rao was featured in the Living Legend Series of the Indian Journal of Ophthalmology.

Under Rao’s leadership, U.S. News and World Report has consistently ranked USC’s Department of Ophthalmology among the nation’s finest. In 2019, the USC Department of Ophthalmology ranked No. 1 among all ophthalmology departments in the United States in NIH funding.

During his tenure as chair, Rao oversaw a significant increase in clinical productivity, opened the first dry eye center in Southern California, and integrated research and clinical care.

Rao received USC’s award for excellence in resident training 15 times and has mentored 25 postdoctoral scholars and junior faculty.

USC Provost Charles F. Zukoski, PhD, announced in a statement on Aug. 24 that Mosqueda was stepping down. He said Mosqueda “has led with conviction, courage and clarity, always with an eye on doing the right thing and treating people with fairness, candor and respect.” 

Zukoski praised Rao’s “deep knowledge and experience” and that the administration is “confident that the transitional period will be smooth while we identify a strong leader for the school.”

— Landon Hall