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USC to fire ex-medical school dean over drug allegations

July 21 at 10:11 PM

LOS ANGELES — The University of Southern California announced Friday that it will fire its former medical school dean over allegations that he abused drugs.

The school has started the process of terminating Dr. Carmen Puliafito from the faculty and stripping him of tenure, USC Provost Michael W. Quick announced in a letter to the faculty.

Quick said Puliafito was immediately suspended and barred from the campus and from any association with USC including attending or taking part in university events.

The action came after USC received information Friday of “egregious behavior” concerning substance abuse, Quick said.

“This was the first time we saw such information first-hand,” Quick wrote. “It is extremely troubling and we need to take serious action.”

FILE – In this Nov. 20, 2014 file photo, Dr. Carmen A. Puliafito, the dean of the University of Southern California medical school, arrives at the Changing Lives And Creating Cures Gala in Beverly Hills, Calif. USC President C.L. Max Nikias says officials will “examine and address” a newspaper report that the Puliafito, who recently resigned as dean of the medical school, abused drugs and associated with criminals. (Photo by Tonya Wise/Invision/AP, File) (Associated Press)

“We certainly understand that substance abuse is a tragic and devastating disease. But we are also bound to our responsibilities as a university to take the necessary actions concerning Dr. Puliafito’s status,” Quick wrote.

The announcement came the same day that USC said it had hired a former judge and federal prosecutor to head an investigation into allegations, first reported in the Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/2tOJ4j6) on Monday, that Puliafito was seen on video apparently smoking methamphetamine and consorting with addicts and criminals.

Debra Wong Yang, a former member of the Los Angeles Police Commission, Superior Court judge and federal prosecutor in Los Angeles, will present her findings to a committee of the USC board of trustees.

“We are outraged and disgusted by this individual’s behavior,” USC President C.L. Max Nikias said in a letter announcing the investigation and urging colleagues to cooperate fully.

Puliafito, 66, is a renowned eye surgeon. He led the Keck School of Medicine for nearly a decade before resigning his $1.1 million-a-year post in 2016. However, he remained on the Keck faculty and continued to represent the university at public events as recently as last weekend.

Repeated attempts by The Associated Press and the Times to reach Puliafito have been unsuccessful and he has not publicly commented on the allegations raised by the Times investigation.

The paper reported that three weeks before Puliafito’s resignation as dean, a 21-year-old woman had overdosed in his presence in a Pasadena hotel room. The woman was rushed to a hospital, where she recovered. Police found methamphetamine in the hotel room, according to a police report, but made no arrests.

The paper said it interviewed six people who said they used drugs with Puliafito and some captured their exploits in photos and videos shot in 2015 and 2016.

In one video, Puliafito uses a butane torch to heat a large glass pipe outfitted for methamphetamine use. He inhales and then unleashes a thick plume of white smoke. Seated next to him on a sofa, a young woman smokes heroin from a piece of heated foil.

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Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com/

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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