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Women Share Their Paths to Chiefs of Staff

Originally published November 9, 2022

Last updated November 9, 2022

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Photos of Dr. Alison Wilcox, Dr. Happy Khanna and Dr. Elizabeth Lee

The prestigious role is a demanding multi-year position. Get to know the leaders at Keck Medicine of USC hospitals.

The chiefs of staff at all three Keck Medicine of USC hospitals are women. A chief of staff acts as the medical staff spokesperson, fosters educational activities and coordinates with the chief executive officer for the betterment of the hospital.

Each leader, as seen in the above image from left to right, spoke about her path and passion for health care.

Alison Wilcox, MD, Keck Medical Center of USC

Dr. Wilcox, a radiologist, attended the Keck School of Medicine of USC as a dean’s scholar.

She stayed on to complete her residency and fellowship and then joined the Keck School’s radiology department with a specialized interest in cardiothoracic imaging.

Dr. Wilcox later became the program director of the radiology residency program before assuming the role of director of cardiothoracic imaging.

Today, she is the medical director for imaging at Keck Hospital of USC and is starting her second year as the medical center’s chief of staff.

“Each of these steps has been incredibly impactful and helpful and brought me to the point where I can be a successful leader,” she says. “I think it helps that I’m levelheaded with a lot of common sense, and I like to think I am naturally fair.”

Photo of Dr. Happy Khanna
Happy Khanna, MD, on the job at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital (Photo by Chris Shinn)

Happy Khanna, MD, USC Verdugo Hills Hospital

A pediatrician at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital since 1990, Dr. Khanna has overseen 90% of the births there, and she is currently chair of the Caduceus Society, a philanthropic group of USC-VHH medical staff.

She celebrated 30 years at the hospital in 2020 — the same year she began her tenure as the first woman chief of staff — and has a reputation fitting to her name.

“I am a friendly person who loves to help people,” she says. “A smile and a positive attitude can be a powerful thing.”

Dr. Khanna’s first year in the job was challenging due to a breast cancer diagnosis, but thanks to the care she received at USC-VHH, she is now cancer-free.

Her first task was to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic’s first wave, and she has actively worked to boost collaboration between Keck Medicine physicians and community physicians at the hospital.

Elizabeth Lee, MD, USC Arcadia Hospital

Dr. Lee, a general surgeon in Arcadia, has run a private practice for 27 years.

She specializes in many forms of surgery but is currently focused on breast cancer surgery. She is also medical director the Wound Healing Center and Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber at USC Arcadia Hospital.

With several leadership roles under her belt, including chief of the hospital’s surgery department and chair of general and vascular surgery, Dr. Lee is prepared for the hospital to begin its next chapter.

There are so many bright and motivated women doctors at the hospital, and I hope I encourage them to be part of hospital leadership.

Elizabeth Lee, MD, Chief of Staff, USC Arcadia Hospital

“I look forward to the technology and resources Keck Medicine can bring to benefit our staff and patients,” she says.

The Arcadia hospital hasn’t had a woman chief of staff in nearly three decades, Dr. Lee says, so her role holds special influence.

“There are so many bright and motivated women doctors at the hospital, and I hope I encourage them to be part of hospital leadership,” she says.

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USC Health Magazine 2021 #1

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