The USC School of Pharmacy has received a $5 million gift to create a new center that will seek to reduce hospitalizations and emergency room visits by making the medicine we consume safer and more efficient.

“The goal of the Titus Center is to improve patient health and safety by ensuring that patients with chronic diseases receive the right medication at the right doses, avoid dangerous drug interactions and understand how to use each medication correctly,” said Steven Chen, PharmD, the school’s associate dean for clinical affairs.

Although that may sound like a simple goal, it tackles an important issue because taking the wrong medication or dosage can lead to costly hospital visits or even death, Chen said.

“Over $528 billion of avoidable spending occurs each year in the U.S. due to harm or inadequate results from medication, accounting for the third leading cause of death,” he said. “The Titus Center will create opportunities for pharmacists to ensure that all patients, regardless of socioeconomic status, attain optimal results from medication therapy.”

The USC Titus Center for Medication Safety and Population Health will be built on foundational work at the school with key partners, which connects community pharmacists with patients who frequently visit the hospital because of chronic or uncontrolled diseases like asthma or diabetes. Pharmacists trained by the USC Titus Center may reevaluate the patients’ medication dosages and schedules or create customized individual treatment plans in an effort to prevent more hospital visits. The goal is to make communities healthier and health care more affordable.

The USC Titus Center is named after Susie Titus, who died in February 2020 and gave $5 million from her estate to the USC School of Pharmacy.

“We are deeply grateful to Susie Titus for her vision and generosity,” said USC School of Pharmacy Dean Vassilios Papadopoulos, DPharm, PhD. “Likewise, we are grateful to the entire Titus family for their longstanding support of the USC School of Pharmacy.”

A USC family continues its longstanding support of pharmacy school

Titus earned her bachelor’s degree in education from USC in 1960 and came from a long line of Trojans and pharmacists. She is one of seven relatives to graduate from USC. The Titus family endowed the pharmacy department at the USC School of Pharmacy in 2004.

Her grandfather, Frank DeWight Titus, moved to Los Angeles for its dry climate after being diagnosed with tuberculosis. He opened a community pharmacy in Alhambra, Calif., in 1935.

Her father, Frank DeWight Titus Jr., and aunt, June Titus, both earned their doctorates in pharmacy at USC and took over the family business. In the 1960s, her brother, Frank DeWight Titus III, also a USC graduate with a pharmacy doctorate, took the reins and expanded the company with new locations in Santa Ana and Compton.

Susie Titus started the pharmacy’s veterinary division in 1979 and managed sales representatives who sold to veterinary hospitals throughout California, Arizona and Nevada.

“She made the gift because the Titus family has been so involved with pharmacy for so long that pharmacy was part of the family,” DeWight Titus III said. “She wanted to give back to the profession.”

New USC pharmacy center focuses on safety in prescription medications

The USC Titus Center currently works with pharmacies and insurance providers in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. But the center has garnered recent interest from more partners in San Diego and Northern California, Chen said.

Part of the donation will fund the salary of the Susie Titus Professorship in Medication Safety. This faculty member will have a background in health care data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence and medication safety. The holder of the endowed professorship will encourage USC School of Pharmacy students to explore new technologies and strengthen the mission of the USC Titus Center.

“This support will allow USC students the opportunity to learn the critical components of developing a sustainable advanced pharmacy practice,” Papadopoulos said. “Through the USC Titus Center, students will gain exposure to health care data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence in medication safety — tools to ensure they are prepared for successful careers in a dynamic health care environment.”

— Gustavo Solis