Prolific physician-scientist and leader Dr. Hugo Rosen

Prolific physician-scientist and leader Dr. Hugo Rosen

The USC community mourns the loss of our colleague, Dr. Hugo Rosen, who passed away on December 28. He was a cherished colleague and friend to many in our community. 

Dr. Rosen joined the Keck School of Medicine of USC in May 2018 as chair of the department of medicine from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, where he was chief of gastroenterology and hepatology and professor of medicine and immunology. He received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Miami before completing his residency at Beth-Israel Deaconess Hospital and fellowship training at UCLA. He was appointed to his first faculty position at the Oregon Health Sciences University. 

Dr. Rosen was a prolific physician-scientist. He was recognized nationally and internationally for his research on the liver, investigating cellular and molecular underpinnings of a wide spectrum of innate and adaptive immune responses and developing novel paradigms in liver diseases. Dr. Rosen became the Program Director for the National Institute of Health (NIH) funded Liver Center, where he successfully secured two new NIH grants as the primary investigator. Though he continued to thrive as a researcher, his contributions to USC and the greater medical community extend far beyond his scholarship.

Dr. Rosen assembled a remarkable team during his tenure. The Keck School of Medicine recruited more than 135 faculty within two years under Dr. Rosen’s leadership, including division chiefs and leaders within gastrointestinal/hepatology, critical care, cell therapy, and heart failure and transplantation. Together, these interdisciplinary scientists brought more than $12M in federal research funding to USC. With the right talent in place, research and teaching thrived and several programs received national notoriety in the U.S. News & World Report rankings: cardiology and heart surgery (jumped to #11 from 45), gastrointestinal (#13 from unranked), geriatrics (#6 from # 17); nephrology (#13 from #35); and pulmonary care (#12 from unranked).

Dr. Rosen’s passion for training, mentoring, and supporting physicians and researchers transcended many of the achievements that distinguished his tenure. He created three new vice chair of medicine positions: diversity, equity and inclusion, quality and safety, and translational medicine. He developed centralized services for biostatistics, bioinformatics, and biorepository for faculty and trainees. He also championed the development of the Academy of Medical Educators, a 12-month training program that pairs seasoned faculty with new faculty recruits. The “Med-Check” program—a new program that provides faculty with free, off-site, psychological support from a clinical psychologist—was also introduced under Dr. Rosen’s leadership.

Leading the largest department at the Keck School of Medicine in a diverse community like Los Angeles requires an intentional focus on diversity and Dr. Rosen rose to the occasion. His legacy as department chair includes the development of broad initiatives for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). He dramatically improved the caliber and diversity of our residency and fellowship programs and more than tripled the underrepresented minority (URM) match rate from 3% to 20%. He is also responsible for creating the Global Health program for medical residents at the Keck School.

As recruitment, diversity, teaching, and research thrived, so, too, did the patient care and business affairs of the department of medicine. Under Dr. Rosen’s leadership, clinical revenue grew by nearly 20% and revenue from new patients grew by 55%. Dr. Rosen supported the development of Arts in Medicine program, which leveraged the healing power of the arts to care for patients with terminal illnesses. This program is expanding to support health care providers who are continuing to grapple with the demands of caring for patients in the context of a global pandemic. This is one of many programs that Dr. Rosen and the department of medicine provided as Keck Medicine of USC and the larger university worked to support patients, health care workers, and the surrounding community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Rosen’s commitment to training and supporting the next generation of health care heroes has had a tremendous impact on the department, the Keck School, and the community. His leadership has had a lasting and enduring impact on our school and the medical profession. We will be forever grateful that he decided to share his brilliance, leadership, and many talents with our community.

In honor of his many contributions to our community and profession, the Rosen family has established the USC Hugo Rosen MD Legacy Fund. This fund honors Dr. Rosen’s leadership at the Keck School of Medicine and will ensure that the next generation of underrepresented medical researchers have the mentorship support they need. If you have questions about making a gift, please contact Grant Hoover at (951) 288-2490 or email