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Keck School of Medicine News and Notes
For faculty and staff of the Keck School of Medicine of USC
November 16, 2016

Rohit Varma named Keck School dean

Rohit Varma, MD, MPH, has been named dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC, effective immediately. Varma also will hold the May S. and John Hooval Dean’s Chair in Medicine. USC Provost Michael Quick, PhD, announced the appointment Nov. 9 on behalf of USC President C. L. Max Nikias, PhD. “While we interviewed a number of top candidates for this position, the standout to lead the Keck School of Medicine of USC was Rohit Varma," noted Quick. "We are lucky to have had him here, leading the way as interim dean. We are proud of the outstanding quality and talent of the Keck faculty and staff, current students and graduates. We know that (the school) will continue to soar in the future under the leadership of Dean Varma.” Varma was appointed interim dean of the Keck School on March 24. He is the holder of the Grace and Emery Beardsley Chair in Ophthalmology at the school, and is a professor of Ophthalmology and Preventive Medicine. His most recent service to USC includes serving as the chair of the Department of Ophthalmology, director of the USC Gayle and Edward Roski Eye Institute and president of USC Care Medical Group.

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Study: Primary tumor location predictive of treatment response in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer

A retrospective analysis of clinical trial data reveals that in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer, primary tumor location is predictive of their response to various treatment strategies for the disease. This builds on previous data that tumor “sidedness” is indicative of overall survival within this same patient population, with patients with left-sided primary tumors having significantly better prognosis than those with right-sided tumors. The study analyzed data of patients with RAS wild-type metastatic colorectal cancer from the Cetuximab and/or Bevacizumab Combined With Combination Chemotherapy in Treating Patients With Metastatic Colorectal Cancer (CALGB/SWOG 80405) clinical trial. Patients with left-sided primary tumors responded significantly better to cetuximab, which had an average survival of 39 months as opposed to 32 months with bevacizumab. Conversely, patients with right-sided primary tumors responded more favorably to bevacizumab. “The molecular differences between left and right-sided tumors in the colon are such that they are essentially two different diseases,” said Heinz-Josef Lenz, MD, professor of medicine and holder of the J. Terrence Lanni Chair in Gastrointestinal Cancer Research at the Keck School, and co-chair of the SWOG 80405 clinical trial. “More research is needed to determine why there is such a vast prognostic difference; but for the time being, tumor sidedness should be heavily considered when developing a treatment plan for metastatic colorectal cancer patients, and future clinical trials should first stratify participants by primary tumor location.”

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Competitive sports prepared USC fellow for the rigors of plastic surgery

In her sophomore year as a pre-medical student at Harvard University, Meghan McCullough made a life-changing career decision: to train for a chance to make it to the Olympics or fulfill her ambition to become a doctor. Her choice to retire from competitive ice dancing at age 21, while difficult, led her to where she is now: a USC plastic surgery resident and Tsao Global Surgery Fellow. “I was one of those strange people who, from an early age, it just kind of clicked,” she said. Not only did she know she wanted to be a doctor, she wanted to be a plastic surgeon. “It was a good combination of my natural aptitude in science and my love of art and sculpture and working with my hands — and then just the desire to help people.” She chose USC for her plastic surgery residency in part because of its Tsao Global Surgery Fellowship, organized by Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Operation Smile and the USC Institute for Global Health. “What’s really special about USC is they have this two-year program that really gives you the time to immerse in the experience and come to appreciate all the cultural, social, political and economic factors involved in global surgery work — and the time to do quality research,” she said. This year she became the program’s fifth fellow since 2010.

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Open Enrollment period deadline: Sunday, Nov. 20

USC's benefits open enrollment period for 2017 runs from Monday, November 7 to Sunday, November 20 at 11:59pm (PST). All benefit changes, new rates, etc. take effect January 1, 2017.

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Thursday, November 17

Noon - 1:30 p.m. USC Institute for Global Health and GlobeMed at USC. “Redefining Leadership: A Conversation on the Future of Global Health with Global Health Corps,” Jessica Mack, MTS, moderator. Rosen Family Screening Room at Tutor Campus Center, TCC 227, University Park Campus. Info and RSVP: Larissa Puro, (323) 442-7233, puro@usc.edu, http://globalhealth.usc.edu/redefining-leadership.


Noon - 3:30 p.m. Office of Research Workshop. “Revising Strategies for Proposal Success,” Bonnie Lund, professional grant writer. USC Norris Medical Library West Conference Room. Info and RSVP: (213) 740-6709, usccer@usc.edu, https://research.usc.edu/revising-strategies-for-proposal-success/.


Friday, November 18

1 p.m. - 4 p.m. Institute for Genetic Medicine. "Exhibition Opening: A Different Kind of Light by Naomi Scully, Alexandre Maroutian, Joanna Kos," Naomi Scully, artist, Institute for Genetic Medicine Art Gallery. Harkness Auditorium. Info: Lynn Crandall, (213) 705-7489, lynn.crandall@gmail.com, http://artAngels.org/. RSVP: Jill Miller, (310) 795-3650, jilen@msn.com.

Monday, November 21

Noon. Department of Psychiatry Grand Rounds. Herklotz Seminar Room, ZNI 112. Lunch will be provided.


Noon. Department of Radiology Grand Rounds. "Interventional Radiology." NRT LG503/4 – Harlyne Tower. Info and RSVP: Rosy Diaz, (323) 442-7469, rosaura.diaz@med.usc.edu, http://keck.usc.edu/radiology/divisions. Lunch will be provided, reservations requested.


5:30 p.m. Department of Ophthalmology Grand Rounds. Brandon Wong, MD. HCC4 Conference Room, 6th Floor. Info: Lina Poyzner, (323) 442-6383, Lina.Poyzner@med.usc.edu, http://eye.keckmedicine.org.

Tuesday, November 22

Noon. The Saban Research Institute Seminar. "Novel Host Gene Expression Signature for Diagnosing Sepsis," Jerry J. Zimmerman, MD, PhD, University of Washington School of Medicine. Saban Research Building Auditorium, 4661 Sunset Blvd. Info: Ritu Gill, (323) 361-8715, tecpad@chla.usc.edu, http://chla.org/tecpad.


Noon - 2 p.m. USC Institute for Global Health and GlobeMed at USC Discussion. "Redefining Leadership: A Conversation on the Future of Global Health," Jessica Mack, MTS. Soto Street Building (SSB) 115/116. Info: Larissa Puro, (323) 442-7233, puro@usc.edu, http://globalhealth.usc.edu/redefining-leadership.

Media Mentions

On November 1, Hooman Djaladat, MD, associate professor of clinical urology, was interviewed live on KCBS about the importance of Movember and being vigilant about men's health. "Prevention is better treatment...early detection plays the most important role, so check it out," Djaladat said.

On November 1, Mary Samplaski, MD, assistant professor of clinical urology, was interviewed by USC Annenberg Media about a recent clinical trial for male birth control. "I believe that eventually this male birth control will be available for men, but it will take a couple years," Samplaski said.

A Nov. 3 story in Yahoo Finance announced that John Lipham, MD, chief of the Division of Upper GI and General Surgery, performed the first minimally invasive surgery to install a device for acid reflux disease in a patient in the United States as part of a clinical trial. "There is a significant need for an effective and less invasive procedure for reflux that will potentially help a large number of patients unsatisfied with current therapy options," Lipham said. The story was also covered in Pharma Biz.

A November 4 story on the Today Show online quoted Raj Dasgupta, MD, assistant professor of clinical medicine, about how to avoid common sleeping mistakes during Daylight Savings Time. "If you get up start your day; be exposed to bright light," Dasgupta said. He was also quoted in GQ about ways to avoid snoring.

A November 7 story in the Daily Mail featured research from Roksana Karim, MD, PhD, assistant professor of clinical preventive medicine, that found women who get pregnant after age 35 may retain more cognitive function as they age. "It has been suggested that functional brain changes induced by reproductive experiences have lifelong effects, particularly in terms of improvement in memory and learning. Therefore it is biologically plausible that a late pregnancy might offer protection against cognitive decline in later life," the study states.

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