Campus News

Keck School of Medicine of USC Dean Carolyn Meltzer beats impostor syndrome

TITLE IX: Leader seeks to create environments that ensure that people of all identities feel included and valued.

Greg Hernandez May 22, 2023
Carolyn Meltzer is the dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC. (USC Photo/Nigel Lizaranzu)

As a student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the 1980s, Carolyn Meltzer remembers being plagued with feelings of impostor syndrome — especially each time she walked by the famous portrait of the university’s founding physicians known as “The Big Four.”

“It was where men are men and giants walk the halls,” she said. “If you were a woman, you were a bit of an outlier. My frame of mind was always to fit in with the guys and be twice as good to be recognized.”

Meltzer, dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the May S. and John H. Hooval Dean’s Chair in Medicine since 2022, describes those years as “an arduous journey” that she had to push through. Only one-third of her classmates were female, and positive reinforcement was hard to come by.

“I remember a moment when I was a senior medical student and a female chief resident said to me, ‘You know, you’re really talented. You really do a good job,’” Meltzer said. She was speechless, and the chief resident wondered why. “I said, ‘Nobody has ever told me that since I’ve been here.’”

Speaking out to help others

These are among the experiences that inform Meltzer’s work overseeing the operations and academic affairs of Keck School of Medicine and its 16 major research institutes and 26 basic and clinical academic programs. She is mindful that it remains more common for women and other underrepresented and marginalized groups to doubt their abilities despite successfully performing at a high level. (…Read More)