Secondary Logo

Share this article on:



Special Theme: Cultural Competence: RESEARCH REPORTS: Cover Note

Public Relations, Keck School of Medicine of USC

In the late 19th century, Los Angeles was little more than a frontier town. Amid a land boom, however, the city was rapidly becoming a sought-after destination. The University of Southern California (USC), founded in 1880, was among the city's anchor institutions. Physician J. P. Widney, a university trustee, created a medical school, recruiting 16 local physicians as faculty. The USC Medical School opened its doors to ten students, including two women, in 1885, becoming the region's first medical school.

The school's original home was in a two-story brick building that formerly housed the Vache Freres Winery. In 1949, the university purchased land adjacent to the county hospital, which became the nucleus of the medical campus, now known as the USC Health Sciences Campus.

The 1950s and 1960s saw the school emerge as an innovator by adding a doctor–patient relations program to its curriculum and developing a standardized patient program—using actors to help train medical students—and creating an innovative mannequin, later dubbed Sim One, that could simulate the physiologic responses of a human body. Sim One could breathe and blink, and even allowed students to administer ten intravenous drugs, to which it would respond physiologically. The project proved wildly successful and garnered much respect for the school's developing curriculum.

Keck School faculty have forged major advances in medicine, including the organization of the population-based cancer registry for Los Angeles County in 1972. The registry, aptly titled the cancer surveillance program, is one of the most scientifically productive cancer registries in the world. In 1973, the USC/Norris Cancer Center, one of the first cancer centers, was designated “comprehensive” by the National Cancer Institute. The campus further expanded with the opening of the Doheny Eye Institute in 1985 and USC University Hospital in 1991.

The faculty have also achieved a number of “firsts” for the school, including the development of the first academic Department of Emergency Medicine in the nation in 1969; the discovery of the first cancer-causing gene, or oncogene, in 1970—identified in a chicken tumor virus by Peter Vogt, MD, and Hidesaburo Hanafusa, PhD; the world's first double lobar lung transplant from living-related donors in 1993; and the first living-related “bloodless” liver transplant in 1999.

In 1999, the signing of a historic agreement signaled the rebirth of USC's medical school. The W. M. Keck Foundation made a $110 million gift to the medical school, marking the largest philanthropic gift ever made to a U.S. medical school at that time. In recognition, the USC School of Medicine was renamed the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

For more information about the Keck School of Medicine of USC, please visit our Web site at 〈〉.

© 2003 Association of American Medical Colleges