Ex-USC Med School Dean Saw Patients While On Meth

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – An investigation has found that for more than a year while he was dean of USC’s medical school, Dr. Carmen Puliafito abused drugs on days he worked as an eye doctor in university facilities, seeing patients “within hours of using methamphetamine,” it was reported Thursday.

Puliafito consumed heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs on a near-daily basis at the Keck School of Medicine campus and elsewhere, and he supplied drugs to other people, including a teenager and a patient in an addiction treatment facility, according to a filing that details the results of an investigation conducted for the Medical Board of California, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Between February 2015 and November 2016, Puliafito used drugs with a circle of addicts, prostitutes and other criminals. The conduct persisted after he stepped down as dean in March 2016 and continued practicing medicine as a member of the faculty, according to the filing.

A few weeks prior to his resignation, a woman overdosed in his presence in a Pasadena hotel room, The Times discovered.

The state medical board suspended his license in September.

Puliafito, a once-renowned ophthalmologist who resigned as dean last year, could not be reached for comment. The attorney representing him before the medical board did not respond to a message seeking comment.

USC received complaints about Puliafito’s drinking and abusive treatment of colleagues, but administrators have said they were stunned by revelations of his drug use.

“Until July of this year no university leader was aware of any illegal or illicit behavior by Carmen Puliafito and to date there have been no issues or complaints related to patient care,” USC spokesman Charles Sipkins said Wednesday in a statement. “Once the university was aware of his illicit behavior, he was immediately removed from his patient care role and he is no longer employed by the university.”

Earlier this month, the man who replaced Puliafito as dean also resigned amid a report that, about 15-years-ago, USC reached a financial settlement with a female researcher who accused him of sexual harassment.

Dr. Rohit Varma, a noted ophthalmologist, was named dean of the medical school in November 2016.

Varma stepped down as the Times was prepared to publish a story disclosing that USC had formally disciplined Varma in 2003 after allegations that he sexually harassed a woman researcher while he was a junior professor. At the time, the university paid the woman more than $100,000 and temporarily blocked Varma from becoming a full member of the faculty.

(©2017 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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