USC began receiving complaints about former medical school dean's behavior 5 years ago: 7 things to know


Los Angeles-based USC received complaints about former Keck School of Medicine dean Carmen Puliafito's, MD, "egregious behavior" prior to his reappointment as dean in 2012 — roughly five years before recent allegations of Dr. Puliafito's drug misuse surfaced in July, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Here are seven things to know about the complaints.

1. A former USC administrator, the former human resources director for the medical school and several prominent faculty members anonymously spoke to the Los Angeles Times about Dr. Puliafito's "hair-trigger temper, public humiliation of colleagues and perceived drinking problem."

2. The publication also obtained four letters of complaint regarding the former dean's behavior. In a March 2012 letter to the university provost at the time, one Keck medical school professor wrote, "As a representative of USC, the dean is an embarrassment to our school and the university."

3. USC President C.L. Max Nikias, PhD, wrote in a letter to the campus community July 28 the university previously "received various complaints about Dr. Puliafito's behavior, which were addressed through university personnel procedures … [and] included disciplinary action and professional development coaching." Dr. Nikias noted Dr. Puliafito was also placed "on notice" in November 2015 for "being disengaged from his leadership duties."

4. Dr. Nikias' letter also detailed the events leading up to Dr. Puliafito's resignation in March 2016. He claimed Dr. Puliafito stepped down after USC Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Michael W. Quick, PhD, approached him with information provided by two USC employees. Dr. Nikias also claimed university officials were not aware of Dr. Puliafito's actions at the time of his resignation.

5. However, 24 of Dr. Puliafito's former colleagues who spoke to the Los Angeles Times claimed complaints about his behavior were "widespread and … at least some reached USC's upper management." The medical school's former human resource director told the publication university employees "came to him fairly regularly about misbehavior by [Dr.] Puliafito, including rudeness and suspected drunk driving," the report states.

6. Similar concerns were allegedly outlined in written evaluations submitted by Keck faculty in 2012. University faculty and staff were given the option to complete anonymous surveys or write letters to be used to evaluate Dr. Puliafito's fitness for a second term as dean. One professor's evaluation, obtained by the Los Angeles Times, said Dr. Puliafito's presence "created a very negative atmosphere at [the medical school] which has alienated a large number of faculty and chairs and created a siege mentality, in which faculty and staff are constantly worried about their welfare and ability to maintain a productive environment in which to work."

7. Dr. Nikias' letter admitted the administration received detailed questions and a copy of a 911 audio recording in March related to an incident involving Dr. Puliafito at a Pasadena, Calif., hotel last year. He said the recording was immediately referred to the Hospital Medical Staff, an independent body tasked with addressing a physician's clinical competency. The body determined "there was no existing patient care complaints [about Dr. Puliafito] and no known clinical illnesses," according to the president's letter. The Hospital Medical Staff reopened its investigation into the case in July. The California State Medical Board also opened an investigation into the former dean. Dr. Puliafito was ordered to stop seeing patients last month.

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