USC initiates termination proceedings to fire former Keck medical school dean Dr. Carmen Puliafito after drug allegations

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Los Angeles-based University of Southern California officials said the university has "initiated the process to terminate" Carmen Puliafito, MD, former dean of the USC Keck School of Medicine, according to The New York Times.

USC Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Michael W. Quick, PhD, said in a statement the university "[was] provided access to information of egregious behavior" on the part of Dr. Puliafito, 66, July 21. Dr. Quick called the information "extremely troubling" and said it required officials to take "serious action."

It was the first time university officials received first-hand information concerning Dr. Puliafito's alleged substance misuse activities with people unaffiliated with the university, the statement read.

"We certainly understand that substance abuse is a tragic and devastating disease," Dr. Quick said in the statement. "But we are also bound to our responsibilities as a university to take the necessary actions concerning Dr. Puliafito's status."

The statement also said Dr. Puliafito is "under immediate suspension from the university and is barred from our campuses and any association with USC, including attending or participating in university events" during the termination process.

USC officials announced their decision July 21 to hire a partner from Los Angeles-based law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to investigate Dr. Puliafito's conduct and the university's response, the report states.

"Our priority now is to obtain a clear picture of exactly what happened and to ensure the well-being and trust of our students at USC, the patients at the Keck School and our entire university community," USC officials said in an emailed statement to The New York Times July 22.

Allegations of Dr. Puliafito's substance misuse and associations with drug misusers and criminals surfaced July 17 in a report by The Los Angeles Times. One woman — who worked as a prostitute, according to The New York Times — said Dr. Puliafito was with her at the time of her drug overdose in 2016. The Pasadena Police Union said July 21 it was investigating the police's handling of the overdose incident.

Dr. Puliafito resigned from his position as dean in March 2016, less than one month after the alleged incident, according to The New York Times. He continued to accept new patients and remained a part of the Keck faculty following his resignation.

The day after The Los Angeles Times published its investigation, USC President C.L. Max Nikias, PhD, wrote an open letter to the campus community stating Dr. Puliafito had been placed on leave and was no longer seeing patients.

The Medical Board of California is also investigating the allegations against Dr. Puliafito.

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