Professor Emeritus Joseph P. Van Der Meulen, MD, former USC vice president for health affairs, died April 6 after a long battle with Parkinson disease. He was 86.
Van Der Meulen was recruited to the Keck School of Medicine of USC in 1971 as chair of the Department of Neurology and chief neurologist at Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center. As chair, he worked closely with the Departments of Neurosurgery and Radiology to promote neuroscience alongside clinical neurology. According to many colleagues, he was committed to building teams to bring the best of science to the patient’s bedside.
“His compassion and acumen as a neurologist, his integrity and respect for all persons, and his vision and grace as a senior statesman inspired all who crossed his path,” said Helena Chui, MD, chair of the Department of Neurology at the Keck School.
A Boston native, Van Der Meulen received his medical degree cum laude from Boston University and served his internship in internal medicine at Bellevue Hospital in New York. He received his neurology training at the Harvard Neurological Unit of Boston City Hospital. He subsequently spent two years in Stockholm, Sweden, at the Karolinska Nobel Institute for Neurophysiology with Ragnar Granit, a Nobel laureate.
Van Der Meulen then served as an associate in neurology at Harvard University and as an associate professor of neurology and biomedical engineering at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Van Der Meulen also served as a neurologist at the Navy Hospital at Camp Pendleton, where he also was assigned to pediatrics.
From 1977 until his retirement in 2008, Van Der Meulen served as vice president for health affairs for USC. While in this role he also served as dean of the medical school twice, 1985-86 and as interim dean from 1996-97. For almost 30 years, he acted as the university’s lead liaison to the County of Los Angeles on LAC+USC, leading contract negotiations on an annual basis.
“Dr. Van Der Meulen was a gifted scientist, clinician and leader who made enormous contributions to USC,” said Rohit Varma, MD, MPH, interim dean of the Keck School. “His tireless work to make the Keck School and USC flourish and thrive will have an impact on generations of medical students, graduate students, residents, fellows, staff and faculty. We are truly grateful to have had such a giant in our field lead us.”
Part of Van Der Meulen’s legacy at the Keck School is the Joseph P. Van Der Meulen Symposium for Clinical Neuroscience. Now in its 23rd year, the May 7 symposium will highlight advances in research and treatment for multiple sclerosis. The Joseph P. Van Der Meulen Chair of Neurology, which resulted from a generous gift from the Pasarow family, is a tribute to Van Der Meulen’s dedication to clinical research and patient care.
“Added to his accomplishments, leadership and vision for the enterprise, was an elegance in dealing with other professionals that can serve as a model for us all,” said Steven Giannotta, MD, chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery at the Keck School.
Van Der Meulen is survived by his wife Ann, three daughters and sons-in-law, and 11 grandchildren.
by Amanda Busick