Students at USC have the resources of the Undergraduate Student Government and Graduate Student Government to represent their collective opinions, work on solving issues and stay connected with the university. Faculty members too have their elected leaders as resources.
Dr. Charles J. Gomer, who was recently elected vice president of the USC faculty for the 2012 school year, said he wants to ensure that all USC faculty members’ voices are heard.
“In the past years the university has finalized far-reaching strategic visions,” Gomer said. “Now each school will use that vision in setting their own goals in moving forward … [I] will check and see how they’re doing and if there are things we can do or items we can provide them with.”
As vice president, some of Gomer’s responsibilities will include running the Academic Senate, which consists of representatives from all the USC schools, sitting in on the faculty and USC Trustee committee meetings and helping each school achieve their strategic plans. He will also continue to serve on the Appointments, Promotions and Tenure Committee for the USC Keck School of Medicine and as vice chair of Faculty Affairs in the Department of Pediatrics.
Gomer will also serve as the faculty’s president-elect for the 2013 school year. The president of the USC faculty works on strategic planning and overall vision, but Gomer said he hopes to work on “enhancing the existing communication and outreach to all faculty so they know there is a voice for them.”
Gomer, however, won’t only be focusing on the faculty. As president, he wants to work more with USC students to improve the graduate student program and distance learning, which the university has a significant investment in for the future.
Another student issue that Gomer wants to tackle during his time in office is sustainability.
“The opportunities for USC to move forward in areas of sustainability and environmental friendliness are tremendous,” Gomer said. “This is an area that we know many of our students are actively involved in.”
Gomer was a prestigious recruit for USC. Before coming to Keck, he completed his undergraduate and graduate education in biology at State University of New York at Buffalo — the same graduate school as President C. L. Max Nikias — for a portion of his studies. When it came time to narrow his field of study, Gomer chose radiation biology because of his personal ties to the field.
“Cancer runs in my family,” Gomer said. “I decided to go into a program that focused on cancer. It allowed me to do things I learned at the lab bench, basic research and understanding processes, but what was really nice is that I was able to work with other clinicians and scientists to move some of these [processes] into the clinic.”
Through his research, Gomer has been able to develop new therapies for retinoblastoma, a rare eye cancer that develops in early childhood. After working in New Mexico at National Laboratories, which was part of the atomic bomb and radiation-focused Manhattan Project during World War II, Gomer was recruited to work for USC to develop expertise in using lasers and radiation therapy to treat eye tumors.
On top of his new duties, the scientist will continue to do research at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and to instruct the medical residents there and at Keck in radiology.
Perhaps the area that Gomer is most known and appreciated for at USC is his mentoring. The recipient of the USC Mellon Foundation Culture of Mentoring Award and the USC Provost’s Award for Mentoring, Gomer said helping others achieve their goals and work up to their full potential has always been one of his passions.
“What was very fortunate for me was that I had an outstanding mentor when I got into graduate school who was an outstanding scientist himself, but who also took the time to work with me and to mentor me, and to allow me to do some risky things with research that ended up panning out very well,” Gomer said.
Once he arrived at USC, Gomer was determined to give back to others in the same way that he had once been helped.
“I was asked a while ago to set up mentoring programs for new faculty members [at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles],” he said. “I was very much wanting to do this … it’s a way to give back because I was so fortunate.”
As part of his new program, Gomer helped create workshops on career development, presentations and writing in order to help faculty gain new and valuable skills. In addition, all new faculty members are paired with a team of members from their field of interest.
“What really makes USC special … is that over the past decade they have developed a culture of mentoring,” Gomer said. “They reward good mentoring by faculty members. They want faculty to work with students and new faculty to help them succeed … USC does it very well and provides a lot of resources.”