Replacement for shamed USC Med School dean resigns

LOS ANGELES — The head of the University of Southern California’s medical school resigned Thursday, less than a year after he took over for a dean who resigned and was later the center of allegations that he smoked meth and hung out with criminals.

Dr. Rohit Varma chose to step down after the university “learned previously undisclosed information that caused us to lose confidence in Dr. Varma’s ability to lead the school,” USC Provost Michael Quick said in a letter to USC officials.

He added: “Our leaders must be held to the highest standards.”

Quick didn’t provide specifics. However, the announcement came as the Los Angeles Times was prepared to publish a story disclosing that USC had formally disciplined Varma in 2003 after allegations that he sexually harassed a woman researcher while he was a junior professor. The Times cited confidential personnel records and interviews with people familiar with the university investigation.

The Times reports that the university paid the woman more than $100,000 and temporarily blocked Varma from becoming a full member of the faculty.

Messages seeking comment from Varma were not immediately returned.

Varma, a noted ophthalmologist, was named dean of the medical school in November. He replaced Carmen A. Puliafito, who gave up his $1.1 million-a-year dean’s post in the middle of the 2016 spring term, saying he wanted to explore outside opportunities.

Puliafito did not mention that three weeks earlier, a 21-year-old woman had overdosed in his presence in a Pasadena, California, hotel room but recovered, according to the Times.

Puliafito remained a faculty member until earlier this year, when USC said it was firing him in the wake of a Times report that he kept company with a circle of criminals and people who used drugs and had been captured on video apparently smoking methamphetamine.

At Varma’s formal installation as dean in January, USC President C.L. Max Nikias told the crowd: “Healing, passion and hope — these words speak to the character of our new dean.”

Read more at the LA Times

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