Mitzi Nagarkatti

Rising tide

School of Medicine professor's research leadership has university-wide impact

When Mitzi Nagarkatti joined the School of Medicine as chair of pathology, microbiology and immunology in 2005, the department was bringing in about $600,000 a year in NIH funding, 81st among all such departments across the nation.

The department now garners some $9.5 million per year in NIH grants (No. 17 in the country) and Nagarkatti continues to build research capacity not only in that unit but in the entire School of Medicine and across the university. As impressive as NIH funding growth is, it’s only one indicator of Nagarkatti’s research leadership.

“Mitzi is an outstanding scientist whose research has had significant impact, even as she led her department to greatly improved performance,” says Les Hall, executive dean of the School of Medicine. “She has immensely impacted the upward trajectory of the careers of her trainees as well as several faculty throughout USC through mentoring and collaborations.”

An abridged list of Nagarkatti’s accomplishments is notable not only for its breadth but also for the commitment of time and effort each required: recipient of two NIH Center grants (Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Center of Biomedical Research Excellence on Dietary Supplements and Inflammation); holder of several patents including one that’s been licensed for use of cannabidiol to treat autoimmune hepatitis; mentor to more than 100 trainees, including doctoral students, post-docs, research faculty, undergraduates, medical students and technologists; recipient of more than $50 million in extramural funding since joining USC; and service on several national review panels and boards. Her recent research involves studying how PTSD affects the immune system.

Nagarkatti has been named an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellow and a fellow of the Academy of Toxicological Sciences. At the university she wears several hats including faculty member and department chair in the School of Medicine, SmartState Endowed Chair for Cancer Drug Discovery and Carolina Distinguished Professor.

She has immensely impacted the upward trajectory of the careers of her trainees as well as several faculty throughout USC through mentoring and collaborations.

Les Hall, executive dean, School of Medicine

Nagarkatti’s receipt of a 2018 Leadership in Research Award from the university affirms those career accomplishments and especially her efforts to build the university’s research talent pool.

“I am impressed by Mitzi’s extensive experience and dedication in providing education and training,” says Lorne Hofseth, a professor in the College of Pharmacy and director of graduate studies who was himself mentored by Nagarkatti.

“She has trained a large number of undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral and clinical fellows, medical students, residents and junior faculty, including women and underrepresented minorities.

Perhaps as great as any of her professional accomplishments, the legion of academic professionals whom Nagarkatti has mentored will be a lasting legacy of her research contributions.

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