Prof. gives $25 million for center

USC President C. L. Max Nikias announced Tuesday a $25 million gift from Leonard D. Schaeffer, USC professor and a Judge Robert Maclay Widney Chair. The endowment  is expected to benefit the USC Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics.

The USC Schaeffer Center was established in 2009 with a gift from Schaeffer and his wife, Pamela. Both the USC Price School of Public Policy and the USC School of Pharmacy dually house the Schaeffer Center, uniting the two schools into a single organization that focuses on solving health care issues. Researchers at the Schaeffer Center conduct research in both public policy and pharmaceutical policy, integrating the two for a unique take on healthcare policy in America today. The center also concentrates on predicting the future of health care in the United States.

“Our nation faces grave health and fiscal challenges,” Schaeffer said in a statement. “I support this center because its rigorous, independent and interdisciplinary research provides the foundation for designing effective policies to address these issues in both the public and private sectors.”

According to Sadena Thevarajah, USC Schaeffer Center director of external affairs, the endowment will serve to preserve the long-term sustainability of the center, as well as recruit new faculty members.

“While the endowment will not fund any precise program, it will mainly help us to be able to recruit high-level faculty and researchers who will be fantastic assets to the center’s goals,” Thevarajah said. “The donation will also really allow us to continue to grow in the research of health policy the center has already really quickly excelled in.”

The research done at the Schaeffer Center doesn’t focus solely on fixing problems with health care policy, though; it also seeks to come up with policy solutions that will benefit future U.S. health care policies.

“We project and model what health care costs will be like in the future based on current claims,” Thevarajah said. “So, researchers will look at current Medicare claims and be able to project what costs will be burdening the country in the future, and that will allow us to create policy solutions that can hedge for and prepare for that.”

Ariana Wall, a senior majoring in economics, said the center will support her professional aspirations to curb childhood obesity through health care reform.

“I want to use my economics background to work in public health care so this center is exactly what would help me further my career path,” Wall said. “The center will certainly help to bolster USC’s status as a top research university.”

Professor Glenn Alan Melnick, director of the Center for Health Policy and Management and an expert in public policy issues relating to health care access, said the endowment not only benefits the Schaeffer Center, but also health care research on the West Coast in general.

“This center is significant for the West Coast because most of the policy centers are on the East Coast,” Melnick said. “This gift now establishes a large, well-financed, sustainable center which will allow West Coast researchers and what’s happening in this part of the country to influence health care policy. It turns out that a lot of the innovation in health care comes from California, but has a hard time making it across the country because of the policy makers.”

The Schaeffer Center has received more than $45 million in external research funding, helping it become one of the nation’s leading policy institutions, with its research having been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Politico and National Public Radio.

Jon Miller, a freshman majoring in global health, said the donation puts USC at the forefront of an extremely important research area.

“Our future is dependent on research,” he said, “and while global health is a rapidly changing field, this donation is going to allow USC to make profound changes and continue to grow in the rankings.”

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