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Medical Boons for Eastside

The top levels of medical research and teaching seem far removed from the nitty-gritty of providing health care for the poor and uninsured. But current gains in both areas should add up to a boon, both medical and economic, for the Eastside and the San Gabriel Valley.

The most direct benefit will come from the Los Angeles County supervisors’ agreement to build both a 600-bed new County-USC Medical Center and a small hospital farther east in Baldwin Park. That deal, not yet final, will settle a battle between Supervisor Gloria Molina and her colleagues over the size of the main county hospital. The satellite hospital in the eastern San Gabriel Valley will serve many people now forced to make a 30-mile trip from Pomona to East Los Angeles for county medical care.

Now comes Thursday’s news of a $110-million gift from the W.M. Keck Foundation, enough to rename the USC School of Medicine and, it is hoped, boost it to the top tier with UCLA, Stanford and Harvard medical schools. Since USC doctors provide the care at County-USC, that can only help patients.

The money becomes part of a prospective $1.5-billion package of county, state, federal and private investment funds focused on County-USC, the private USC University Hospital and the new William Myron Keck Medical School, named after the oil baron who established the foundation. All of the spending will be Eastside, not Westside. Beyond improving medical care for poor and paying patients alike, that means good jobs and infrastructure in an area that needs both.

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There’s a big-picture benefit, too. The initial research focus at the medical school will be on neurogenetics, including such debilitating diseases of aging as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. As one County-USC Medical Center wag put it, the greening of East L.A. could ease the graying of America.


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