USC Keck medical school Dean Dr. Rohit Varma resigns amid revelation of previous sexual harassment claim

Los Angeles-based Keck School of Medicine at USC Dean Rohit Varma, MD, resigned from his post Thursday, according to The Los Angeles Times.

USC Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Michael W. Quick, PhD, confirmed Dr. Varma's resignation in a statement to the campus community Thursday.

"I understand how upsetting this situation is to all of us, but we felt it was in the best interest of the faculty, staff and students for all of us to move in this direction. Today we learned previously undisclosed information that caused us to lose confidence in Dr. Varma's ability to lead the school. Our leaders must be held to the highest standards. Dr. Varma understands this, and chose to step down," Dr. Quick said, according to The Washington Post.

According to an investigation by The Los Angeles Times, Dr. Varma was previously disciplined by the university for allegedly sexually harassing a research fellow in 2002.

The woman accused Dr. Varma of making unwanted sexual advances during a 2002 trip to an ophthalmology conference. She told investigators when she and Dr. Varma arrived at the conference hotel, Dr. Varma had booked a single room and allegedly told the woman the two were to share a single bed. The woman told investigators when she questioned the arrangement, Dr. Varma said the grant funding they received would only cover one room, according to the report. She said questioned Dr. Varma further and he allegedly proceeded to take away her cellphone and threatened to have her visa revoked, according to the report.

According to university records reviewed by The Los Angeles Times, the woman reported the incident to USC. The USC Office of Equity and Diversity launched an investigation into the incident and determined there was "sufficient basis to conclude that inappropriate behavior [had] occurred," the report states.

USC reportedly paid the unidentified woman $135,000 to settle the case, with $11,000 of the settlement money paid directly by Dr. Varma. USC disciplined Dr. Varma by denying him a promotion, cutting his salary by $30,000 and ordering him to undergo counseling for sexual harrasment and avoid all contact with the researcher. However, the disciplinary actions were rescinded after some time, according to the report. The woman reportedly left the U.S. after the incident.

Prior to Dr. Quick's statement Thursday, USC told The Los Angeles Times the incident involving Dr. Varma had been resolved and the university "remained confident in [Dr.] Varma," according to the report.

Neither Dr. Varma nor the woman returned The Los Angeles Times's requests for comment.

Dr. Varma was appointed dean of the medical school in November 2016 after former dean Carmen Puliafito, MD, resigned last March. Recent allegations suggest Dr. Puliafito engaged in drug misuse during his tenure at the university.

To read The Los Angeles Times's investigation about Dr. Varma, click here.


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