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Mosqueda Goes to Bat for Old Souls

For as long as she can remember, Pasadena resident Laura Mosqueda has enjoyed the company of older adults. A close-knit relationship with her grandparents while growing up in Southern California played a large role in this reality, as did the inspiration she gleaned from her own parents, both of whom were physicians. This combination of an affinity for the elderly and a desire to help others paved a clear career path for Mosqueda, who has stridden passionately along it for more than 20 years as an innovator and advocate. Today, she serves as chair of the department of family medicine, professor of family medicine and geriatrics, and associate dean of primary care at the USC Keck School of Medicine.
“I think I had great role models and people around me who were older, and so I always had an interest in geriatrics,” said Mosqueda. “When I got to medical school, I was particularly attracted to family medicine because it had a philosophy of care that resonated with me — holistic, family-oriented, team-based. It just made sense to me that if you wanted to treat somebody’s high blood pressure, you needed to also understand if they were depressed or anxious or what their family lives were like.”
Mosqueda was born in the Fairfax neighborhood of Los Angeles and moved to Pasadena when she began medical school at USC. She had grown familiar with the area during undergrad at Occidental College. It wasn’t until Mosqueda was a geriatric fellow that she began to hone her research on the issue of elder abuse. One of her patients was an older woman who had been physically abused by her daughter. Mosqueda sprang into action, filing a report and contacting Adult Protective Services, but was surprised by what she thought was a lack of an appropriate response.
“It just made me realize that I, as a physician, am a real part of the problem,” said Mosqueda, who noticed that Adult Protective Services did not have the support it needed to function effectively.
She decided to get involved and began going on house calls in order to learn about elder abuse at the ground level. Her work eventually led to a grant that funded the establishment of a much-needed medical response team.
In 1998, the College of Medicine at UC Irvine liked what it had seen from Mosqueda and recruited her to build a geriatrics program on campus. She promptly co-founded the nation’s first elder abuse forensics center, which unites legal, medical, social services and law enforcement experts to improve the investigation and prosecution of elder abuse cases. Nearly two decades later, the Center of Excellence on Elder Abuse and Neglect has grown into a nationally regarded division in the field.
“It was really intellectually challenging and stimulating to build a program almost from scratch and to see where it could go,” said Mosqueda, who commuted from Pasadena during the 16 years she worked in Irvine. “It was interesting both for my brain and I would say for my heart as well because we were really building a program — and it’s one that still is there that I’m very proud of — that did the right thing on behalf of older adults.”
Mosqueda returned to USC two years ago because she was attracted by what was happening within her alma mater’s school of gerontology. Specifically, there was a research group focusing on elder abuse and Mosqueda needed to be involved.
“The thought of combining forces for this work — which I guess I would consider my life’s work — on elder abuse to really move the field forward, was very important to me,” she said. “I felt like we could really make a difference.”
In the university statement announcing Mosqueda’s homecoming, USC Health Senior Vice President and CEO Thomas Jackiewicz said, “We’re thrilled to have someone with Dr. Mosqueda’s expertise and energy lead our department of family medicine. I am confident she will usher in a new era of clinical excellence that will resonate with our surrounding communities.”
So far, Mosqueda hasn’t let Jackiewicz down.
Her work, which includes traveling to Washington, D.C., in order to prod government agencies, testifying in criminal trials and working with law enforcement, recently resulted in a $2.2-million grant over three years that made USC the National Center on Elder Abuse. Mosqueda is also a practicing physician who meets with patients on a regular basis from her office in Pasadena.
“I look up to her,” said Rose Taroyan, assistant professor of family medicine at Keck’s La Cañada Flintridge clinic. “It’s where I’d want to be when I’m down the line. She knows what she wants and she goes after it. This issue that’s been going on for such a long time with elder abuse, she brought it onto the table and she made everybody aware.”
Mosqueda is scheduled to speak in Singapore this November in order to help the country’s government find a proper approach to elder abuse. Outside of work, Mosqueda enjoys reading, hiking, cooking and frequenting the Pasadena farmers market on Saturday mornings. She and her husband are also certified scuba divers. The couple has plunged into the waters of Costa Rica, Indonesia and the Galapagos Islands, to name a few destinations.
“It’s beautiful, it’s peaceful and the phone can’t ring,” said Mosqueda. “Nobody can talk to me when I’m underwater.”
When she surfaces, though, her laser-like focus on a brighter future for the elderly is readily apparent. After all, more than 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day, and the fastest-growing segment of the population is people over the age of 85.
“We’re working hard on training more students in care of older adults and also working toward transforming healthcare systems so that we provide better care for older adults,” Mosqueda said.
“It’s been a real joy for me.”

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