The former dean of the Keck School of Medicine engaged in drug use during his tenure at USC, hosted parties in his office and kept company with convicted criminals and an underage drug user, a Los Angeles Times investigation reported on Monday.
Carmen Puliafito was named dean of Keck in 2007 and announced his resignation in March 2016, citing a return to academic ophthalmology and the pursuit of other professional opportunities.
The Times interviewed six people who partied with Puliafito starting in 2015 while he was still dean, none of whom were USC students. Puliafito has not been arrested or charged with a crime, and has no criminal record.
According to the Times, on March 4, 2016 — a few weeks before Puliafito’s resignation — he was present at a Pasadena hotel party with then-21-year-old Sarah Warren, who suffered a drug overdose that evening. In a series of interviews with the Times, Warren said she became affiliated with Puliafito in early 2015 when she was working as an escort.
Footage the Times reviewed shows the pair doing drugs the night before Warren’s overdose. A call record from the Pasadena Fire Department published by the Times reveals that Puliafito called 911 after Warren became unconscious. In the call, he stated he was a doctor, referred to her as his girlfriend and said she had only ingested alcohol.
The Times stated that a witness reported Warren’s overdose to Pasadena authorities and phoned USC President C. L. Max Nikias’ office on March 14, 2016. The University did not confirm reports of this phone call to the Daily Trojan.
Puliafito resigned 10 days later, but is still listed as a faculty member on the Keck website. The University confirmed Puliafito was on sabbatical from his faculty position and is following all proper procedures to review his status in patient care. Since Puliafito is on leave, he is not currently seeing any patients.
The Times also reviewed images of Puliafito partying with individuals with criminal records, as well as videos that suggest the former dean took drugs like ecstasy and methamphetamine. The photos were reportedly dated in 2015 and 2016 and showed Puliafito and his acquaintances partying in various locations, including in his office at the Health Sciences Campus.
The Times also obtained a copy of a CVS prescription Puliafito wrote for Sarah Warren’s younger brother, Charles Warren, who was 17 at the time he met Puliafito. The prescription, the Warrens said to the Times, was for asthma inhalers that would alleviate the raw effects on their lungs from drug use.
The University has lauded Puliafito as a strong leader and fundraiser as recently as last June, three months after his resignation. During Puliafito’s tenure, he oversaw the full accreditation of Keck and focused on increasing research and grants from the National Institute of Health. Last year, Keck was ranked 31st on the U.S. News and World Report of the nation’s best medical schools — a jump of eight places since the start of Puliafito’s deanship. Puliafito was also a witness in USC’s legal dispute with the University of California, San Diego about the rights to an Alzheimer’s research program.
The Daily Trojan could not independently confirm the Times’ reporting.
The University had no further comment beyond confirmation that Puliafito was not currently seeing patients and stated it was not at liberty to discuss personnel matters.
“If the assertions reported in the July 17 Los Angeles Times story are true, we hope that Carmen receives care and treatment that will lead him to a full recovery,” the University said in an email to the Daily Trojan.