USC Price School of Public Policy

Kiki Coyne Nocella

Kiki Coyne Nocella

MHA ’91, Ph.D. Public Administration ’05

Before Kiki Coyne Nocella became the founding vice provost of health affairs at University of California-Riverside, she was a Trojan.

“SPPD’s impact was huge,” she says. “At the master’s degree level, it was about the experience, the exposure to health professionals and entities, and the network. It was about finding my place in the professional world.”

The desire to obtain her Master of Health Administration may have been what brought Nocella to USC, but her path did not end there. She was also a clinical assistant professor of family medicine at USC Keck School of Medicine for 12 years, an administrative and faculty role that afforded her the opportunity to establish many residency programs for USC medical students.

Residencies are complicated from a business model and financing perspective, according to Nocella, and her experience dealing with the legislation’s impact on these programs cause her to be called upon quite often.

In 2000, Nocella began her Ph.D. in Public Administration, while continuing to work as vice chair of finance and administration for the department of family medicine.

“Along the way, I found my passion for rural communities, and worked on turning around financially distressed rural hospitals,” she explains.

Yet her ability to improve the financial health of these rural hospitals was somewhat limited in her administrative capacity. As a Ph.D. student at SPPD, however, Nocella found she was able to help these hospitals more by partnering with them – facilitating their success through community based participatory research and service learning – knowledge and tools she gained through her education and research at USC.

“During my Ph.D. program I was exposed to some SPPD faculty who were incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about their areas of research and teaching,” she says.

Thanks in part to their guidance, her dissertation, “Recruitment of Family Physicians into Rural California: Predictors and Possibilities,” has come to fruition as a tool for informing the healthcare industry in outlying areas. It is also what brought her to UC Riverside.

Nocella continued her work in this vein following graduation, and in 2005, she was awarded a federal grant for a research project on health information technology in rural communities. Her study focuses on the southeast area of Kern County, California.

Nocella says that her passion for her work is what drives her. “I’m bored with status quo,” she explains. “I’m someone who loves to build things. My passion draws me to situations that are at best unclear, then I put my energy into bringing the various stakeholders together and facilitating their success.”

According to Nocella, this building process is “a lot of fun, very exhausting, and very rewarding.” Equally as fun has been sharing her love of the field with masters level physician assistant students and with undergraduates in SPPD 230 – Introduction to Health Policy and Management – a course she has taught for five semesters.

She received a reward of a different nature this past spring – this time from her alma mater. In April of 2007, Kiki Coyne Nocella received the Alumna of the Year Award from the USC Health Services Administration Alumni Association.

Although Nocella will miss her role as a USC faculty member, her Trojan loyalty runs deep. “It started with marrying a Trojan 19 years ago. Then a dog named Troy. Later, two daughters who both attended USC daycare…so they were Trojans from eleven weeks old. My professional time may now be elsewhere, but you will still find us at all the USC football games,” she says.

To learn more, browse SPPD’s healthcare and Ph.D. programs.