Next year marks 40 years since Susan Largent joined the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences. Largent is a Project Director in the Office of the Chair, and is responsible for faculty appointments and promotions. During her tenure, she has seen the department grow in size and renown, worked with several Department Chairs, and supported the work of many faculty as they progressed in their careers. Largent is a warm and vibrant presence, attentive and sharp, and regarded highly by anyone who speaks of her. “Susan is both a source of wisdom and counsel as well as a Mother Hen and fierce advocate for our faculty—totally indispensable, with a great sense of humor,” shares Flora L. Thornton Chair Howard Hu, Howard Hu MD, MPH, ScD. Read about her time and contributions to our department.
Where did you start out in the Department and how has your role changed?
“When I first started at USC, I was the study coordinator for several studies in the division of epidemiology. I oversaw the collection of data and made sure studies were run properly. In 2005, the Dean of the School of Medicine, Brian Henderson, shared that our Department Chair at the time, Ronald K. Ross was leaving the due to medical reasons. Malcom Pike stepped in as the interim Chair and he said to me, “you have to help me run the department!” I had already dedicated most of my life to this department—which at the time, had a family feeling— so I agreed. It was so much easier and smaller then, with about 70 faculty members. That is how I went from working in research and data collection— which I loved– to administration. As the faculty grew, the Department appointed Jonathan Samet as Chair (2009-2017). I worked with him and solidified this role.”
“I love it, because I love the department and I love science. I enjoy understanding what the faculty are investigating. I read through their CVs line-by-line when I’m managing the dossier for promotions. This area of my work is really interesting because I get to understand their research, and really get to know them— almost on a personal level. This part is fun for me, but I take it seriously because this is their livelihood— and it is important to them and to the Department.”
What do you enjoy most about your job?
“I love the relationships I have with everyone and get along well with them because they know me. There is a trust you build when you have been here for such a long time. People know that “she’s going to try” or “she is going to get you the answer,” when it comes to me. So, I take my work very seriously. I like to be very positive, and to treat people with respect, so I also have great relationships with the people I have worked with through the years.”
What are you proudest about in this department and why did you choose to work in public health?
“Public health has always been important to me. My mother was a public health nurse and she got me going in that direction. I was always interested in the food and nutrition aspect—and still am today, I still think it’s fascinating. My background is in dietetics, and I have always had this desire to help people who were marginalized when it came to good food and nutrition. Having readily accessible healthy food options hasn’t always been the case. Before I got this job, I was studying for my masters, and working with Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) in Santa Ana. It broke my heart to see so many people not being able to get nutritious food and rely on WIC. I’ve always had a heart for the marginalized—it’s still who I am. Here at USC, I really love the work that is being done in the Health Behavior Research division, because it really does reach out to the marginalized, which is a passion of mine. Outside of work, I am involved in community outreach through my church in Santa Ana, which provides clean water and food to communities in county.”
Get to know Susan:
What did you want to be as a kid?
“As a child, I loved to dance but once I went to college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be. I loved studying and knew that I wanted to pursue something in medicine—so I received my degree in dietetics.”
What is an interesting hobby you have?
“Since the pandemic, I have become an avid gardener—I probably have 50 to 60 plants. I’m currently growing some sunflowers and I just love succulents; they are so durable, capable and strong. I’m also big on staying active and promoting physical and mental health. I have been practicing yoga for 15 years now.”
Cats or Dogs?
I have four dogs and they’re all cute! Bowser is the oldest and the three youngest are all Australian Shepherds: Koffee, Zeke and Ruskin, a Blue Merle who is a mix of different colors.