Keck School of Medicine appoints new associate dean of social justice

The associate dean of social justice looks to improve community health in a newly created position.

USC Keck School of Medicine has a new associate dean. The new pick, Professor Ricky Bluthenthal, was formerly a professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine. He has been acting as a dean through the month of January and established the USC Keck Office for Social Justice.

Keck School Dean Laura Mosqueda created this new position looking to improve community health and advocate for greater equity in health services and policy. Bluthenthal will be responsible for creating a curriculum that focuses on the health-related social justice issues that affect the South L.A. and East L.A. communities near USC. Both of these communities suffer from health disparities and underlying structural disadvantages that the office aims to alleviate.

"At the most fundamental level, most of the determinants of our health don't have to do with the quality of care we receive or underlying human biology," Bluthenthal said. "Instead [it has] to do with where we live – the communities, the people we interact with, and whether there are environmental dangers or contaminations."

Bluthenthal's plan includes launching a "listening tour" with the local community and USC leaders to help better inform future improvements for Keck in the following months.

"In the short term, I am going to be doing a lot of learning and listening to folks who are already at USC and engage in these [types] of topics, but using a social justice approach," Bluthenthal said. "[Keck] is also reaching out to our peer institutions to discover what they have been up to in this space and how we might adapt that to our medical school."

This position was not created in response to past Keck scandals, but rather as a move toward community awareness by Mosqueda, who is entering her ninth month as Keck's first female dean.

"It's not really a reaction to anything that's happened recently or in the past," Bluthenthal said. "It's more that [Mosqueda] is in a new position and has this new opportunity and I get the benefit of a chance to use this position to help facilitate that mission."