Photo by Suzanne Neubauer


Tackling pressing health questions to achieve effective solutions

The research division of the Department of Emergency Medicine has enjoyed tremendous growth between 2011 and 2016 and is now well-positioned to conquer its mission. The department has seen a marked increase in scholarly production, grant applications and external funding and is now exceeding $1 million in grant funding annually for past three years from prominent funding agencies such as the NIH, National Institute of Justice, Department of Defense, Naval Medical Research Center, CDC, Gilead Sciences, Massimo Corporation, California HIV/AIDS Research Program and the LA County Office of AIDS Programs and Policy, among others.

Labs and Facilities

RCMAR – Minority Aging Health Economics Research Center

The National Institutes of Health recently awarded USC’s Schaeffer Center with $2.7 million over 5 years to establish a Resource Center for Minority Aging Research (RCMAR). The USC RCMAR is named the “Minority Aging Health Economics Research Center.” The Minority Aging Health Economics Research Center is led by Dana Goldman and Julie Zissimopoulos from the Schaeffer Center. The mission is to provide infrastructure and resources to increase the number, diversity, and academic success of researchers focusing on the health and economic well being of minority elderly populations.

The Center is housed at USC’s Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics and brings together the resources of USC’s Roybal Center for Health Policy Simulation, Roybal Institute on Aging, Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, and RAND’s Roybal Center for Financial Decision Making. The RCMAR program includes participation from DEM faculty Drs. Menchine and Arora, who serve as faculty mentors to new researchers.

Biomechanics Injury and Research Lab (Bir)

The Biomechanics Injury Research (BIR) Laboratory is a state of the art, research laboratory established in 2014. This lab specializes in analyzing injuries related to both blunt and penetrating trauma. The main laboratory features a variety of impact assessment equipment including: linear impactor, drop stand, and an air cannon capable of shooting baseballs, hockey pucks and lacrosse balls over 90 mph.

Linear Impactor Setup for football helmet testing.

Biomechanical surrogates used to evaluate various helmets and other protective devices are available. The lab currently has the ability to evaluate protective gear for most National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) along with American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards. The Lab also received $36,568 for small contract work provided.

A self-contained ballistic lab provides the ability to study everything from behind body armor trauma (BABT) to less-lethal kinetic energy munitions. The lab is only one of two laboratories in the United States where both live fire and biological specimens can be tested in unison.

The BIR Lab also features a high-speed camera capable of over 10,000 frames per second at standard definition, and over 3,500 frames per second at high-definition (720p). Biomechanical surrogates include a full Military – Side Impact Dummy (Mil-SID), NOCSAE headforms, Hybrid III headforms (Figure 2) and a Sport Thoracic Chest Surrogate (STCS). Two high-rate data acquisition systems with over 40 channels of data collection are available along with a variety of accelerometers, angular rate sensors, pressure sensors and strain gages.

One of major projects in the BIR Lab is the Warrior Injury Assessment Manikin (WIAMan). WIAMan is a joint effort with seven universities and several partners in the industry. The end goal is to develop a new Anthropomorphic Test Device (ATD) to assess the under belly blast threats in military vehicles. The BIR Lab is also actively participating in a Behind Armor Blunt Trauma (BABT) study. Partially supported by the Safariland Group, this study aims to bring real world meaning to the NIJ standard for the certification of body armor worn by law enforcement.

Hybrid III Headform being impacted with linear impactor outfitted with MMA glove.

As part of our desire to collaborate within the Keck School of Medicine and the Viterbi School of Engineering, we are actively pursuing a project to assess a variety of “concussion detection” devices in a post-mortem human subjects (PMHS) model. This project will involve evaluating the response reported by the device with that actually seen by the brain during an impact event.

In addition, the BIR Lab also works closely with a variety of sports equipment manufactures in product research. The Lab has actively worked with over ten (10) different companies since it was established less than a year ago. These companies included everything from a novel football helmet designed to reduce concussion to the assessment of eye injury related to a heads up, helmet display.


The Center for Trauma, Violence and Injury Prevention is under the direction of Dr. Cynthia Bir. The CTVIP stems from the Department of Emergency Medicine and aims to provide education and training to both the immediate USC community as well as outreach programs to the surrounding areas. In order to fulfill the CTVIP’s goal to provide unique learning opportunities to the students, faculty and the community we serve, formal training and educational seminars are held throughout the year. In the past year, the CTVIP presented its first Quarterly Speaker Series and will continue to host exciting speakers throughout the year. Presenters will come from various backgrounds in order to provide interdisciplinary education efforts as they relate to trauma, violence and injury prevention.

The CTVIP also strives to reduce violence and injury in the greater Los Angeles area through community outreach programs. The commitment to the community that the CTVIP serves in is a critical piece in translating the research conducted into real world changes.

Current CTVIP Programs
ThinkFirst is our brain and spinal cord injury prevention program. It has successfully been implemented at ten high schools throughout Los Angeles County; several charter schools and youth groups. Our go****al is to form and maintain strong relationships with these schools to allow for continued injury prevention education within the community.

Community CPR/Adult/Child/ Infant CPR and Choking is a program that allows the DEM to go out into the community and provide free CPR/Choking classes to individuals who are interested in learning life-saving skills. The Department of Emergency Medicine developed a CPR Training Team to bridge the gap and increase awareness by offering free CPR classes to the parents, group leaders and community. The CPR classes are held at local schools throughout LA.


Violence, Guns & Gun Safety is a new community program that aims to educate middle school students about the risks and dangers of violence and guns. The program consists of a one – time presentation that discusses the risk of gun related injuries and deaths. It provides safety tips on what to do if you see a peer with a weapon.

Grants and Donations
$15,000 was donated from the Jerome Foundation (2015)
$1,200 was donated from Cares (2015)
$6,102 was awarded from USC’s Good Neighbors Grant (2013-2014)