Dr. Thomas McAfee, who was set to become CEO of the new Keck Medicine of USC Medical Foundation on Tuesday, passed away Friday while on vacation in Tanzania. His cause of death has not yet been released.
McAfee was selected to become CEO after Keck Medicine conducted a nationwide search with a private firm to fill the position. He most recently served as dean of clinical affairs at the University of California, San Diego, and previously worked at University of California, San Francisco, Stanford University and in the private sector.
Since McAfee died only days before he was supposed to start working at Keck Medicine, current plans for the USC Medical Foundation were built around him filling the CEO position.
“We’ve been working on [the foundation] in our strategic plan that we finished about six months ago,” said Shawn Sheffield, chief strategy and business development officer at the Keck Medical Center. “Dr. McAfee was really going to be the physician lead on that … He was selected as the guy to be the face of it and really work with groups and get out there.”
The foundation will centralize all of Keck Medicine’s acquired physician practices by providing a broad range of health services across a wider geographic area. The foundation model will also allow Keck Medicine to expand its managed care practice and more efficiently provide health care to USC employees.
“The foundation is a structure where physicians in private practice who are now faculty can become part of the USC Network and use our medical records and marketing and really be part of it all, but still be in private practice,” said Thomas Jackiewicz, senior vice president and CEO of USC Health.
As CEO, McAfee would have been in charge of maintaining relationships across all of Keck Medicine’s entities, including with physician groups, clinical service providers and local hospitals to develop standards of care and improve clinical practices.
McAfee was planning on working closely with Keck Medicine leadership, department chairs, USC Verdugo Hills Hospital and USC Care Medical Group. He also would have served as chair of several physician committees to align clinical programs across Keck Medicine’s spectrum.
“We laid out the structure for the foundation before Tom got here,” Jackiewicz said. “He was an important part of our strategy, and we’re going to have to relaunch our recruiting efforts.”
Despite McAfee’s would-be central role in the foundation, Sheffield said Keck Medicine will move forward with the strategic plan they already have in place and recruit another candidate to fill the CEO position.
“We will continue to move forward with the plans,” Sheffield said. “It’s unfortunate. I think he would have been an outstanding person to bring order and really move this forward, but we’ll continue with that initiative and go out and look for another candidate to fill that role.”
Though the foundation will continue its development as planned, colleagues, family and friends alike will still mourn McAfee.
“Tom was a very unique and talented physician. He was very personable, a great doctor and also understood health care economics as well as any physician I’ve ever worked with,” Jackiewicz said. “I think it’s a great loss for USC, but it’s also a great loss for health care in general because he was one of those very perceptive leaders whose pursuit of health care reform really made a difference.”
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Editor’s note: This post was updated to refer to Keck Medicine of USC Medical Foundation as Keck Medicine on second reference.