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Official: USC Knew Med Dean Led Double Life

June 7, 2018
 
 

A former vice dean of USC’s medical school told state authorities Tuesday that he feared the school’s then dean, Carmen A. Puliafito, “could be doing drugs” while in charge of the school, and that Puliafito could one day be “found dead in a hotel room,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

In testimony before the state medical board, Henri Ford said he told USC’s provost that he was concerned about Puliafito’s well-being -- and was shocked that USC did not require Puliafito to seek treatment.

Puliafito headed USC’s Keck School of Medicine from 2007 until he was forced to step down in 2016. He remained in practice until July 2017.

The board is determining whether Puliafito can resume practicing medicine. It suspended his license after a November 2017 Times investigation found that he led a secret life using illegal drugs “with a circle of young criminals and addicts.”

Puliafito, an ophthalmologist and eye surgeon, has denied wrongdoing, but he admitted in testimony Tuesday that he took methamphetamine weekly with a 21-year-old woman. He said much of the blame for his drug use fell on the woman, who introduced him to the drug. She overdosed in his Pasadena, Calif., hotel room in March 2016, but survived the ordeal.

Ford, who recently was hired as dean of the University of Miami’s medical school, was called as a witness by Puliafito. In his testimony, Ford said he told USC provost Michael Quick about his suspicions after getting reports in early 2016 that Puliafito was partying in hotels with people of “questionable reputation.” Ford said he became worried about Puliafito’s mental stability, asking Quick to “verify everything with my sources. I know he did.”

Quick said in a statement Tuesday that Ford’s information led him investigate Puliafito and to end his deanship. But he said Ford didn’t share any information with him about drug use. If he had, Quick said, “I would have acted on that information immediately as it would have been a clear violation of our policies and a reportable offense.”

USC did not report Puliafito to the medical board, the Times reported, and allowed him to remain on the faculty and continue seeing patients for another 16 months, until the Times investigation disclosed that he used drugs while serving as dean. In a few cases, it reported, he abused drugs on days he worked at Keck and would return to his medical office to see patients within hours of using methamphetamine.

USC president C. L. Max Nikias last week said he would step down after another Times investigation found that the university for years ignored complaints about misconduct by George Tyndall, a campus gynecologist who was accused of improperly touching and sexually harassing patients. USC did not report Tyndall to the medical board until after the Times began interviewing USC employees about the allegations.

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