Beauty inside

USC Price School Dean explains how better policies can transform people’s lives

Dana goldman will be installed on Tuesday as dean of the USC Price School of Public Policy, where he will hold the chair of Dean C. Erwin and Ione L. Piper. Professor Emeritus of Public Policy, Pharmacy and Economics, Goldman headed the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics for 12 years. The centre’s research has guided national policy discussions on medicare reform, drug prices, affordable care law, Alzheimer’s and dementia, and health disparities. USC News caught up with Goldman to find out more about what makes him tick.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be growing up?

An actuary. Back then, most children wanted to be astronauts. But I liked math. Someone told me that actuaries were paid well for a living in math, and I decided that was my calling.

What was the first economic problem or issue that made you realize this was your life’s work?

I became interested in the economy in the early 1980s. The federal government was starting to run up a huge debt. Cities like New York had declared bankruptcy, and mortgage rates and oil prices were skyrocketing. Suddenly, economists like former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker – who helped us out of this stagflation – have become national heroes. I wanted to know more.

What excites you most about your new role as Dean of USC Price School?

Inspire students to advocate for policy change – when the evidence supports it. We need smarter policies, and that also sometimes means accepting that we were wrong.

What are the most important questions / challenges that you would like to see USC Price students address over the next decade?

The list is unfortunately so long: climate, housing, economic opportunities and social and economic inequalities. But I want to see them change the world for the better.

You recently described a “drug” that has been studied extensively, reduces the risk of cancer and heart disease, and may be protective against Alzheimer’s disease. You were talking about exercise. Why isn’t the U.S. health care system widely prescribing it?

We have tipped the scales in America to treat people when they are sick. If I discover a new drug to treat an illness, I can charge it to the government or insurers. But if I find a way to prevent this disease, no one wants to pay. The best thing we can do for the health of the population is to make everyone walk for 30 minutes. Whoever finds out how to do this should get rich.

Have you personally experienced – in your own life – anything that has highlighted the need for innovation in healthcare?

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 29. At that point, I said, “If I take care of myself for the next 20 years, there will be a cure. I have been taking care of myself for over 20 years now and there is no cure. I would really like to live to see one.

You said medicine can be fairer and more efficient. What are the examples of how this is not the case?

I have spent a lot of time studying HIV and other infectious diseases. We have seen that affluent men were much more likely to have access to new HIV treatment than women or those who were at risk due to drug addiction. COVID-19 has also highlighted this kind of inequity. We should have distributed vaccines to grocery stores, churches, barber shops and beauty salons – the places where populations most at risk were at risk.

How has the politicization of the COVID-19 pandemic upset the way health policy experts would generally approach the situation?

Health care delivery has never been a partisan issue, although health care funding is. This has changed. We must learn to communicate the facts in a way that stifles misinformation. It would help if we didn’t scold people.

What achievement are you most proud of?

Many people I have mentored have accomplished better and greater accomplishments than I have ever achieved. Nothing could make me more proud.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’ve just finished Hidden Valley Road: In the Spirit of an American Family – a gift from a member of staff. It’s a tough story about how mental illness can devastate not just the person but everyone around them – and a poignant reminder of why we need better policies and better treatments.

Tell us a bit about your family.

They support a lot!

What do you like to do in LA?

I hiked pretty much everywhere. It is remarkable to me that an hour from this huge metropolis you can be alone with your thoughts in the mountains and the sun.

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