LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – After losing two deans in the span of 18 months for various drug and sexual misconduct allegations, USC’s Keck School of Medicine is hoping the third time is the charm as it named Dr. Laura Mosqueda its new dean Wednesday, this after she had served in the position on an interim basis since October.
Mosqueda is the first woman to be dean of the school, which opened in 1885. She was the school’s associate dean of primary care and chair of the Department of Family Medicine before becoming interim dean. The Keck School alumna joined the school’s faculty in 2014.
Mosqueda directs the National Center on Elder Abuse, a federally funded initiative that focuses on improving response to elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.
Her two predecessors, Dr. Carmen A. Puliafito and Dr. Rohit Varma, resigned in April 2016 and October 2017, respectively.
In April of 2016, after a decade in the position, Puliafito suddenly resigned as Keck School dean but stayed on as a faculty member at the school. However, three months later, in July, he was fired following a Los Angeles Times report that he had kept company with a circle of criminals and people who used drugs and had been captured on video apparently smoking methamphetamine.
Following his resignation, it came out that in March of that same year, a 21-year-old woman overdosed in his presence in a Pasadena hotel room, but recovered. No charges were filed against him. However, the Medical Board of California suspended his license in September following disturbing allegations that he saw patients while on meth. Following his firing, university officials acknowledged they had received complaints and took disciplinary actions against him throughout his tenure as dean.
In November 2016, Varma, a noted ophthalmologist, was named dean to replace Puliafito. However, in October 2017, he resigned amid a report that 15-years-prior, USC reached a financial settlement with a female researcher who accused him of sexual harassment.
Varma’s resignation came 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.
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