Launch of Keck School of Medicine of USC’s Healthcare Delivery Science Center Marks Exciting New Future for Public-Academic Collaborations to Enhance Health Equity

By John Tibbetts and Nicki Karimipour — August 02, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted vulnerable populations and the multiple barriers they face in accessing quality healthcare. In this era of rising costs and harsh social inequities, public hospitals, clinicians, and researchers are searching for novel ways to improve healthcare access and delivery. Yet many innovations never get as far as clinical practice, or they are put into action and fail before being tested fully.

Now, USC’s new Healthcare Delivery Science Center (HDS) will bring together experts from many different disciplines and specialties to craft solutions for advancing patient-centered care in Los Angeles County.

The center is based on Amytis Towfighi, MD’s vision of leveraging academic-public sector partnerships to reduce inequities in healthcare access, quality of care, and health outcomes using healthcare delivery science methods. Towfighi, Director of Neurological Services and Innovation for Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (LAC-DHS) and Professor of Neurology and Population and Public Health Sciences (Clinical Scholar) at Keck School of Medicine of USC, has spent her career developing strategies for enhancing healthcare delivery in LAC-DHS, and conducting research to evaluate the impact of these changes. By developing this center, she intends to bring together researchers from across the university to develop innovative solutions to enhancing healthcare delivery for marginalized populations.

“In Los Angeles County, the public healthcare system takes cares of a large, diverse, and vulnerable population,” said Amytis Towfighi, MD. “The Center will partner with Los Angeles County Department of Health Services and others to improve both access to care and delivery of care. If the Center is successful, it can be a model for academic-public sector partnerships at other universities and healthcare systems across the country.”

“The Center will create a sustainable infrastructure for collaboration among researchers, policy makers, practitioners, healthcare system leaders, patients, and communities. This infrastructure will enable the Center to test innovations rapidly in real-world settings and scale up effective and equitable solutions,” said Steven D. Shapiro, MD, Senior Vice President for Health Affairs at USC.

Furthermore, the collaboration represents a key milestone in the relationship between USC and the Los Angeles County’s Department of Health Services (LAC DHS), which operates the public hospitals and clinics in the County. LAC DHS is the United States’ second largest municipal health system, after NYC Health + Hospitals. LAC DHS serves the County’s 10 million residents with hospitals serving a mostly low-income, uninsured population.

Across the entire LAC DHS enterprise, there are four safety-net hospitals: LAC+USC Medical Center, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Olive View-UCLA Medical Center, and Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center and 23 ambulatory care centers. The mission of safety-net hospitals is to provide healthcare for all people, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay for care.

“This novel Healthcare Delivery Science Center is an exciting development in the partnership between the LA County Department of Health Services and the SC Clinical and Translational Science Institute. This collaboration represents the culmination of nearly a decade of the effort between the DHS and CTSI leadership and teams,” said Hal Yee, MD, Ph.D., Chief Deputy Director of Clinical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer at the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.

Towfighi and her colleagues will leverage in-house SC CTSI personnel and systems to launch and operate the new Center. The Center expands upon the infrastructure developed by the CTSI’s HDS Core. The SC CTSI’s HDS core has already advanced innovations in healthcare delivery science through research awards in partnership with Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, training, and collaborations.

“The core initiatives that we supported with the county and UCLA have been successful and influential among our partners,” said Allison Orechwa, PhD, MBA, SC CTSI Director of Programmatic Development and Managing Director of the new HDS Center. “We’ve identified a need for a healthcare delivery science center on both academic and on healthcare system sides. And it’s a prime time for this kind of innovation because of experiences with the impacts of COVID. The National Institutes of Health is launching new grant programs to look at potential rapid, disruptive innovations that can immediately address real healthcare needs.”

In addition to continuing her role as Director of the Healthcare Delivery Science core within the SC CTSI, Amytis Towfighi, MD will serve as Director of the new HDS Center. She brings extensive experience in clinical research and has spent the bulk of her career developing novel programs for neurological care in LAC-DHS and conducting randomized controlled clinical trials of team-based interventions bridging the healthcare system with the community to reduce risk of recurrent stroke.

In addition to improving access to care and quality of care, researchers affiliated with the Center hope to generate practical knowledge that can be used in hospitals and clinics.

“One of the biggest gaps in translational research is between the demonstration of effective treatments and their application in real world health settings,” said Thomas Buchanan, MD, Vice Dean for Research at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and Director of the SC CTSI. “The Center for Healthcare Delivery Science will greatly expand the capacity of the Keck School and USC to conduct research to bridge this gap.”

Researchers from a wide range of USC disciplines will study how to achieve health equity for all. 

“Our partners will include experts from across USC, including the schools of medicine, public policy, pharmacy, social work, business, and engineering, to name a few," Towfighi added. "With this breadth of knowledge, we will be able to develop innovative, cost-effective interventions that enhance healthcare delivery, especially to vulnerable populations.”

The Center will offer a yearly Symposium on Healthcare Delivery Science as well as a quarterly seminar series, training programs for the study of healthcare delivery, grant-writing guidance, mentoring, and consultation services.

Consultations with the HDS Center are free. Through consultations, researchers can learn how to engage operational leaders at LAC-DHS, receive feedback on research design and implementation, and develop an understanding of the process for conducting research at LAC+USC Medical Center.

For more information about the HDS Center and to learn about ways to get involved, click here

NIH Funding Acknowledgment: Important - All publications resulting from the utilization of SC CTSI resources are required to credit the SC CTSI grant by including the NIH funding acknowledgment and must comply with the NIH Public Access Policy.