Dean Laura Mosqueda of the USC Keck School of Medicine announced she will be stepping down, ending her three-year run in the job.

According to a memo from Provost Charles Zukoski, Mosqueda will take a new position, leading the expansion of the university’s geriatrics program. Narsing Rao, the school’s Chair of Ophthalmology, has been chosen as the interim dean.

“Serving as dean of the Keck School of Medicine has been an honor,” Mosqueda said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Interim Dean Rao on a smooth transition and to returning to geriatrics at a time when the field is poised for exponential growth and innovation.”

Mosqueda began her time as dean in Fall 2017, after a tumultuous year for the Keck School of Medicine. Dean Carmen Puliafito, who had reportedly abused recreational drugs, including methamphetamine, before seeing patients at his office, had stepped down in March 2016.

Rohit Varma, who stepped in as interim dean, held the position for less than a year before the Los Angeles Times reported that he had been accused 15 years earlier of sexually harassing a researcher and then retaliating when she reported it. Varma was removed as dean, and Mosqueda took over.

“She stepped into her current role at a turbulent time for KSOM,” Zukoski wrote, “and with her characteristic intelligence, warmth, and humor, stabilized the school and helped restore a sense of calm and trust.”

Mosqueda, who comes from a background of geriatrics, is an expert on elder abuse and neglect, and a leader on elder justice initiatives.

With Mosqueda as dean, Keck added health justice to the curriculum for medical students, partly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and protest movements of 2020. In a message, Mosqueda described the deaths of George Floyd and others as “symptoms of the same inequalities that contribute to poorer health for people of color in the United States.”

“I am really surprised about this news,” said Huizi Gao, who studies translational biotechnology at the Keck School of Medicine. A new student this semester, she did not experience firsthand the controversies surrounding the earlier deans, but said that her cohort has a high opinion of Mosqueda.

Beyond explaining her transition to the geriatrics program, Mosqueda did not elaborate on her choice to step down as dean.

Rao says the news that he was chosen as interim dean came as a surprise, with less than a week’s notice. He will be working closely with Donna Elliott, Senior Associate Dean for Student and Educational Affairs at Keck.

“I do not have a goal to stay as a permanent dean, based on my other commitments,” Rao said. “So we’ll find a very strong leader as a dean soon, hopefully within 6 months.”

Dean Mosqueda shepherded the Keck School of Medicine through a time of scandal and expanded the school’s commitment to social justice. “Her willingness to step up at a time of great uncertainty is characteristic of the strong leader she is,” Zukoski said.