The COVID-19 pandemic has sharply highlighted the multiple barriers that vulnerable populations face
when seeking access to quality healthcare.
To help ensure that patients receive optimal medication guidance and therapy that improves health and reduces the risk of harm, the USC School of Pharmacy’s new Titus Center for Medication Safety and Population Health will combine evidence, education and advocacy to make more effective use of community pharmacists.
Expanding pharmacists’ role to include medication management has been shown to better optimize treatment and improve outcomes for patients from underserved populations—who suffer disproportionally from common chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma.
The center will be led by Steven W. Chen, a national leader in expanding the scope of pharmacy practice to improve patient outcomes and save healthcare dollars. Clinician and data scientist D. Steven Fox will serve as the center’s research head and co-director.
“Dr. Chen is an expert in designing and implementing innovative clinical pharmacy practice models and a tireless advocate for utilizing the pharmacist as an integral member of the healthcare team—and Dr. Fox is a superb clinician- health analyst,” Dean Vassilios Papadopoulos says. “Together, they’ll set the tone for the center, whose high-impact mission is to create healthier communities while making healthcare more affordable.”
Founded in March 2021, the Titus Center is built on earlier foundational work conducted in partnership with key government and commercial entities, including the Health Resources and Services Administration, Patient Safety and Clinical Pharmacy Services Collaborative, Federally Qualiﬁed Health Centers, several California health plans and numerous community pharmacies. Those partnerships, supported by more than $18 million in foundation and government funding, demonstrated pharmacists’ tremendous value in improving population health outcomes.
“Over $528 billion of avoidable spending occurs each year in the U.S. due to preventable harm or inadequate treatment from medication, accounting for the third leading cause of death,” notes Chen, associate dean for clinical affairs and the William A. and Josephine A. Heeres Chair in Community Pharmacy.
“The Titus Center will create opportunities for pharmacists to ensure that all patients, regardless of their socioeconomic status, can attain optimal results from medication therapy, leading to healthier and more productive lives,” he adds. “The services and research supported by the center will also address the social determinants of physical and mental health through delivering care that is culturally and linguistically appropriate.”
The Titus Center will advance training and initiatives to ensure pharmacists deliver high-value clinical services such as comprehensive medication management.
“Medications usually can’t cure chronic diseases, but almost 90% of chronic conditions require carefully targeted medications to achieve optimal control,” Chen says. “We must get those medications right in order to keep patients healthy and out of the hospital.” Center initiatives include cutting-edge technological solutions for improving medication therapy efﬁcacy and safety.
Driving those efforts to advance sustainable and scalable programs requires reliable evidence, including scientiﬁcally rigorous evaluations of each program’s health outcomes. That analysis will be led by Fox, assistant research professor in the school’s Department of Pharmaceutical and Health Economics.
“The center will create a sustainable infrastructure for collaboration among researchers, policymakers, practitioners, healthcare system leaders, patients and communities,” Fox says.
“That infrastructure will enable the center to rapidly test potential innovations in real-world settings and scale up those that provide effective and equitable solutions.”
A faculty member at the school since 1998, Chen has been among the leaders in expanding the school’s footprint in safety-net clinics throughout Southern California, providing disease management and medication consultative services to vulnerable populations by teams of clinical pharmacists, residents and students. He was a co-investigator on the largest grant ever received by the school, a $12 million innovation grant from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that aimed to improve medication use and safety and access to primary care among underserved populations. Building on that work, he founded the California Right Meds Collaborative, an innovative healthcare solution that partners physicians with pharmacists to save time, money and lives.
The Titus Center is named after USC alumna Susie Titus, who died in February 2020 and gave $5 million from her estate to the school.