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Carmen Puliafito named new dean of the Keck School of Medicine

Carmen A. Puliafito

Photo/Don Milici

LOS ANGELES, Calif. Aug. 20, 2007–The University of Southern California (USC) today announced the appointment of Carmen A. Puliafito, M.D., M.B.A., as dean of the Keck School of Medicine, effective Nov. 1.

An ophthalmologist who earned his medical degree at Harvard University and an M.B.A. from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Puliafito currently serves as director of the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. He has overseen the doubling of that eye institute’s faculty size, an increase from 34th to 14th in National Institutes of Health funding within a three-year span, and the reclaiming of the top position in U.S. News & World Report’s eye hospital rankings from the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

“I am honored to be part of the leadership team at the Keck School and at the University of Southern California,” says Puliafito. “The Keck School is poised to become a leader in American medicine. I was attracted by USC’s extraordinary commitment to the Keck School’s growth and success, a dynamic clinical and basic science faculty, superb new hospital and laboratory facilities, and USC’s unparalleled support for meeting the health care needs of the Los Angeles community.”

In addition to the deanship at USC, Puliafito will also serve as Professor of Ophthalmology and Health Management and the holder of the May S. and John Hooval Dean’s Chair in Medicine. The appointment is for a five-year and eight months term, and he will report directly to Max Nikias, Ph.D., provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

“We believe this appointment heralds a moment of transformation for the Keck School,” says Nikias. “The school is poised for extraordinary growth, thanks to the efforts of a stellar group of faculty, staff, alumni, friends and the guidance and support of the W.M. Keck Foundation. Dr. Puliafito will now take charge as a researcher, teacher, clinician, inventor, administrator and fundraiser of singular quality-able to advance the school to the front ranks of American medical schools in terms of research, teaching and patient care.”

Describing Puliafito as an energetic and passionate visionary, Nikias pointed out that the dean-elect has achieved “revolutionary results at every point in his career. This signals this university’s ability to be an architect of the medical and biological sciences revolution that will reshape our society in the coming decades.”

His colleagues have described him as a rare leader whose achievements in organizational leadership, research, teaching and patient care rest on a foundation of outstanding medical scholarship and clinical practice. His research interests include vitreoretinal diagnostics, laser technologies, ophthalmic education and ophthalmology practice management. He maintains an active practice in retinal consultation and surgery.

When Puliafito was appointed in July 2001 to his current position, he was charged with reinvigorating Bascom Palmer, which had lost organizational momentum over the course of its four illustrious decades. He earned acclaim for creating and enacting a strategy for growth that would propel Bascom Palmer to new heights in the clinical practice, education and research. The faculty increased from 33 members to 70. Two satellite eye centers were opened in Naples and Plantation, Florida, extending Bascom Palmer’s services across South Florida. He guided fundraising and development of a $22 million, seven-acre campus in Palm Beach Gardens that represents the most technologically advanced eye-care center in the United States.

Bascom Palmer’s clinical faculty now treats more than 200,000 patients each year and performs 10,000 surgical procedures; it also provides 24-hour emergency care and community-based care for indigent and low-income patients of Miami-Dade County.

Bascom Palmer’s research and clinical activities gathered strength under Puliafito’s leadership. Among his achievements, he:

� conducted nationwide campaigns to recruit top funded scientists and clinicians as well as promising basic science researchers who were newer to the field;

� increased the number of underrepresented female, Hispanic and African-American faculty members from nine to 25;

� strengthened the center’s research infrastructure; and

� leveraged the University of Miami’s strong neurosciences programs to establish a program in molecular ophthalmology and neuroscience.

Bascom Palmer’s research funding rose from $2.5 million in FY 2002 to more than $8 million in FY 2007. Clinical revenues rose from $16 million in 2002 to a projected $35 million for 2007.

Bascom Palmer seized back the #1 ranking in U.S. News’ rankings of eye hospitals in 2004, three years after his arrival, and has since increased its lead over second-ranked Johns Hopkins’ Wilmer Eye Institute. Its reputational score, as reported in that magazine, is higher than any other institution in any specialty. Bascom Palmer’s education and residency program is also the most highly sought-after in the nation and is regularly named the country’s best training program.

A native of Buffalo, New York, Puliafito is married to Janet Pine, M.D., a former classmate at Harvard Medical School. They have three children: Amy, 23, who recently graduated from Northwestern University; Ben, 17; and Sam, 14. Puliafito is an award-winning philatelist (collector and student of postage stamps), an expert on the early history of the U.S. postal service, and a runner who has completed the Boston Marathon and numerous half-marathons.

The national search process, led by Korn/Ferry International, involved 350 contacts with candidates and other sources. From a list of 55 viable candidates, 12 were brought to Los Angeles for further interviews by the faculty search advisory committee, chaired by Nikias. This led to the selection of six finalists and ultimately to USC President Steven Sample’s appointment of Puliafito.

Puliafito succeeds Brian Henderson, M.D., whom Nikias acknowledged for his leadership during several pivotal years in the Keck School’s evolution. Henderson, an internationally recognized cancer epidemiologist, will remain on the Keck School of Medicine faculty, returning fulltime to his research endeavors.

Editor’s Note: A photograph of Dr. Puliafito is available for download at:

The Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California:

Founded in 1885, the Keck School of Medicine of USC is a major center for basic and clinical biomedical research, especially in the fields of cancer, gene therapy, the neurosciences and metabolic disease. The school today has more than 1,100 full-time faculty members and a voluntary faculty of more than 3,700 physicians. These faculty direct the studies of approximately 650 medical students and more than 400 students pursuing graduate degrees. The school’s postgraduate programs provide training for 1,300 residents fellows and interns annually.

The Keck School of Medicine has meant better health for people around the globe in all fields of medical care. Through 14 affiliated hospitals, USC physicians serve more than one million patients each year. Hospitals staffed by USC physicians include USC University Hospital, USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital, Doheny Eye Institute, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center, one of the largest teaching hospitals in the nation.

Carmen Puliafito named new dean of the Keck School of Medicine

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