USC has acknowledged a controversy surrounding its former medical school dean who allegedly abused drugs and associated with criminals and drug users, the Los Angeles Times reported.
A Times article a day before the university statement alleged that Dr. Carmen Puliafito, a renowned eye surgeon who headed the Keck School of Medicine for nearly a decade before resigning in 2016, kept company with criminals and addicts during his tenure as dean, and that he smoked methamphetamine and other drugs with them.
Following his resignation, Puliafito remained on the USC faculty and has continued to represent the university at public events. During his nearly 10 years at the university, he has been a key fundraiser, bringing in an estimated $1 billion in donations to USC.
However, the day of the USC statement on Tuesday, he was no longer seeing patients and was on leave, according to the Times.
"Our university categorically condemns the unlawful possession, use, or distribution of drugs," USC President C.L. Max Nikias said in the university's first recognition of the controversy. "We are concerned about Dr. Puliafito and his family and hope that, if the article's assertions are true, he receives the help and treatment he may need for a full recovery."
The university, however, did not say when it first learned of Puliafito's conduct or how it responded.
USC added that "the California Medical Board is aware of the situation. They have the sole authority to decide whether and how much to investigate."
When Puliafito resigned as dean in March 2016, saying he wanted to seek other opportunities, he did not reveal an incident three weeks earlier in which a 21-year-old woman had overdosed in his presence in a Pasadena hotel room.
Police found methamphetamine in the hotel room, according to a police report, but made no arrests.
A tip about the incident spurred the Times to investigate, which led to six people saying they partied and used drugs in various locations with Puliafito and had recent photos and videos to prove the allegations.
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