What We Learned From The L.A. Times' Insane Investigation Into USC's Former Med School Dean
Today is quite the day of revealing exposés of powerful men doing insane things. There's the devastating R. Kelly news, and now the L.A. Times has also revealed the secret lives of ex-USC Medical School Dean Anthony Puliafito. In a scathing investigation of the high-profile former dean, the L.A. Times has shined a light on his methamphetamine abuses, the overdose of a prostitute girlfriend, and excessive partying on USC's own campus after-hours. Here are some of the more illuminating highlights from the article.
Puliafito had an insanely high salary.
"Puliafito resigned his $1.1-million-a-year post in March 2016, in the middle of the spring term, saying he wanted to explore outside opportunities." The median salary for a med school dean is $403,742, according to Salary.com.
When his girlfriend, a former prostitute named Sarah Warren, overdosed with him in a Pasadena hotel, he tried to play it off like a minor situation.
“My girlfriend here had a bunch of drinks and she’s sleeping,” he told the dispatcher. Asked whether the woman had taken anything else, he replied, “I think just the alcohol.”
Warren and Puliafito were reportedly doing crystal meth, and an employee at the hotel called the police to report the drug use. Puliafito gave the aforementioned statement to the authorities.
USC is very hush-hush about the whole situation.
Phone records confirm that the witness made a six-minute call to Nikias’ office on March 14, 2016, 10 days after the overdose. A week and a half later, Puliafito resigned as dean.
USC President C.L. Max Nikias and Provost Michael Quick, who was Puliafito’s boss, did not respond to repeated requests for information about the circumstances surrounding Puliafito’s resignation. Nor did the university press office.
Considering Puliafito's status as such a high-profile Dean, it's surprising USC refused any and all comment on his resignation.
Puliafito came to USC to fulfill their aspirations to turn Keck into a more competitively ranked program.
Ten years ago, USC went looking for a transformational leader for its medical program. U.S. News & World Report, in its annual report on the best American medical schools, ranked Keck 25 spots below UCLA in research. That was too low for USC leaders, who saw a top-rated medical school as crucial to their national aspirations. They needed a dean who could deliver the money and marquee researchers to make Keck an elite institution.
President Max Nikias has developed a reputation during his tenure as a dogged fundraiser and developer of USC's national standing, having ushered in changes to the school like the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance and bringing the L.A. Times Festival of Books to its campus.
Puliafito has a history of complaints in his previous employment.
His time at Miami was not trouble-free. Marc Brockman, an optometrist at the institute, filed a lawsuit against Puliafito in 2006 for assault and battery and accused the university of negligence in hiring him.
The article also cites several sexual harassment cases that were investigated during the same era.
Puliafito is married with three kids.
When asked about his extracurricular pursuits, he mentioned his award-winning stamp collection and spending time with his wife, a Harvard classmate, and three adult children.
Our hearts go out to his family.
As a doctor, he has no problem giving drugs to people who are trying to get clean.
Stokes [a friend of Puliafito's] said Puliafito gave him meth, including while he was living at New Life Spirit, a Huntington Beach sober home for recovering addicts. Warren said she saw it happen.
Puliafito's drug-fueled stay at the Pasadena hotel with Warren also happened a couple months after she spent time in a rehab facility.
He's still in the middle of a huge lawsuit with USC, in which the University of California system accuses the school of unlawful poaching of a researcher.
"UC contended in its suit that its private school rival went beyond the bounds of academic recruiting by targeting professors and labs based on grant funding. The suit accused USC of civil conspiracy, aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty and other misconduct."
USC will do anything for those rankings, apparently.
The best part of the whole article, though, is the kicker:
"He continues to represent USC in public. On Saturday, he spoke at a Keck-sponsored program at the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena — one of the hotels Sarah Warren said she frequented with him."