Dean Carmen A. Puliafito

Dean Carmen A. Puliafito

Carmen A. Puliafito 

Carmen A. Puliafito, M.D., M.B.A.
Dean, Keck School of Medicine of USC

Dr. Carmen A. Puliafito is recognized worldwide as an innovator in the diagnosis and treatment of retinal disease and accomplished leader in academic medicine. He was recently reappointed to a second term as Dean of the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, a position he has held since 2007. In this role, he has continued to enhance his reputation as a visionary academic medical leader, a highly effective administrator and educator, and an innovative clinician-scientist.

Since his appointment, he has led the continuing transformation of the Keck School of Medicine into one of the nation’s preeminent research-intensive medical schools, with an annual budget of $700 million (FY 2013), 4,000 employees, 1,600 faculty with $220 million in sponsored research (FY 2012). Under his leadership, the clinical, research, and educational programs of the Keck School have been dramatically enlarged and restructured.

Dean Puliafito led the clinical business planning which culminated in the successful acquisition by USC in April 2009 of its two private teaching hospitals, Keck Hospital of USC and USC Norris Cancer Hospital, both of which had been previously owned and operated by a publicly traded, for-profit hospital corporation. These 471-bed tertiary and quaternary teaching hospitals form the nucleus of a newly constituted USC-owned academic medical center, offering Keck School faculty unprecedented new opportunities for clinical practice, research, and teaching at every level.

Dean Puliafito led the integration of 19 separate physician practices into a single 500-physician faculty practice organization under the aegis of the University of Southern California as of July 2009. This was a formidable undertaking that required the successful resolution of multiple complex legal, financial, and business system issues. This new unified physician practice organization provides improved opportunities for state-of-the-art multidisciplinary patient care and clinical research, as well as new resources for the faculty physicians of the Keck School of Medicine (the integrated practice group) to compete effectively in the Southern California marketplace. The acquisition of the two hospitals and the integration of the faculty physician practices were the two key steps in maintaining an environment in which all resources are directed toward one goal: academic excellence at the highest levels.

In his five years at USC, Dean Puliafito has established his reputation as a highly effective recruiter and fundraiser. He has already recruited more than 17 new department chairs, institute directors, and chiefs of major clinical divisions, including new chairs of Emergency Medicine, Radiation Oncology, Surgery, Orthopaedic Surgery, Otolaryngology, Pediatrics, Pathology, Preventive Medicine, Urology, Cell and Neurobiology, Physiology and Biophysics, Stem Cell Biology & Regenerative Medicine, and directors of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC, Zilkha Neurogenetics Institute, and USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. These new appointees have been recruited from institutions such as Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Vanderbilt, the University of Michigan and the Cleveland Clinic as the result of national searches.

Under his leadership, the biomedical research enterprise at the University of Southern California has demonstrated impressive growth. Over the past three years, total grant awards to the Keck School of Medicine increased by 25% cumulatively to $220 million. Emphasis has been placed upon interdisciplinary research in neuroscience, genomics, oncology, and epidemiology and preventive medicine. This increase propelled the Keck School to rise five positions in the 2011 U.S. News & World Report ranking of research-intensive medical schools to the 34th position. In 2014, the Keck School ranked 31st. In 2010, the Keck School led USC’s successful competition for a prestigious NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award of $58 million. This award stresses indisciplinary research, and involves faculty leaders from the Vitberbi School of Engineering, School of Social Work, School of Pharmacy, and community health organizations. Under Dean Puliafito’s leadership, construction of the Eli and Edythe Broad CIRM (California Institute of Regenerative Medicine) Center, an 80,000 sq. ft. stem cell research facility, was completed.

Since his tenure at the Keck School, Dean Puliafito’s development team has raised more than $700 million. Major gifts included $150 million from the W.M. Keck Foundation, $54 million from Sumner Redstone and $60 million from the Nohl Trust for hematology research. Other major gifts under his leadership include $15 million from the Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation for an expansion of cancer care facilities, $5 million from the Larry Ellison Medical Foundation, $5 million from the Annenberg Foundation for medical student scholarships, $24 million from Sumner Redstone, and $5 million from the Wunderkinder Foundation.

Dean Puliafito recruited new leadership and provided new direction to the Keck School’s medical education program. In 2010, the Keck School was awarded an eight-year reaccreditation by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). In the award letter, Dean Puliafito was credited with creating “an energizing institutional spirit of commitment to teaching and the educational program,” with resources from university leadership. The letter commended him for significantly increasing funding for educational leadership, infrastructure, and innovation.

The Keck School developed an innovative Health Technology and Engineering (HTE@USC) educational track within the M.D. curriculum (in collaboration with the USC Viterbi School of Engineering) to train a new generation of clinician-scientists and Ph.D. biomedical engineers. Dean Puliafito has actively participated in the rich opportunities for cross-university/cross-school collaboration at USC, including founding a university-wide USC Institute for Global Health, developing new bachelor’s and advanced degree programs in global medicine, and stimulating the creation of a new university-wide health careers advisory and development initiative. Under Dean Puliafito’s leadership, the Keck School created a summer biomedical sciences program for aspiring medical students from underrepresented minorities.

In his role as dean of the Keck School of Medicine, Dr. Puliafito serves as the primary academic officer of the Los Angeles County+University of Southern California Medical Center, one of the nation’s largest and most important safety net teaching hospitals. LAC+USC is staffed exclusively by USC full-time faculty (more than 590 physicians), residents, and fellows. Dr. Puliafito helped coordinate the October 2008 move into a new $1 billion hospital facility. He successfully negotiated a $126 million annual, multiyear contract for faculty services at LAC+USC, and developed a management team which works closely with the County of Los Angeles in effectively managing the challenges of the current health care environment. He founded the Keck School’s Community Advisory Council composed of leaders from the diverse communities which the medical school serves and promoting greater involvement in meeting the primary care needs of these communities.

Dr. Puliafito serves as vice chair of the boards of Keck Hospital of USC and USC Norris Cancer Hospital. He is a member of the board of Children's Hospital Los Angeles, the Huntington Hospital (Pasadena), and the House Ear Institute. He serves as an elected member of the board of the Los Angeles County Medical Association.  In the past he has served as president of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), the world’s largest vision research organization, and the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery. He served as editor-in-chief of Lasers in Surgery and Medicine and is the current editor of Ophthalmic Surgery, Lasers and Imaging.

Dr. Puliafito is recognized as co-inventor of the technology of optical coherence tomography (OCT) and with being the first ophthalmologist to use this technology to study the human macula in health and disease. From the first publication about OCT in 1991 to the implementation of the first clinical system two years later, Dr. Puliafito has led in the development of OCT technology – a technology which has truly revolutionized retinal practice and made a real difference for both patients and retinal specialists. From a single system at the New England Eye Center at Tufts University School of Medicine in 1993, OCT has grown to have a global impact, now with more than 20,000 systems in use every day throughout the world. For his work on OCT, Dr. Puliafito was awarded (along with James Fujimoto and Eric Swanson) the 2002 Rank Prize – the world’s most prestigious award in optoelectronics. In 2012, also for his work on OCT, Dr. Puliafito was awarded (along with James Fujimoto, Eric Swanson, David Huang and Joel Schuman) the Champalimaud Vision Award, often called the “Nobel Prize for Vision,” which comes with a $1.3 million prize, the largest monetary prize in the field of vision science and among the largest scientific and humanitarian prizes in the world.

Throughout his career Dr. Puliafito has been an innovator, most recently participating in the introduction of bevacizumab (Avastin) for the treatment of retinal disorders. He was the first to describe the use of the semiconductor diode laser for retinal photocoagulation, and he did pioneering basic science research in excimer laser photoablation and optical breakdown and photodisruption. He established a major optical imaging program while at the University of Miami, and is still actively working with his laboratory team investigating novel retinal imaging approaches at USC, most notably an initial description of the novel technique of photo acoustic ophthalmoscopy.

As a chair of two departments of ophthalmology over a 16-year period, Dr. Puliafito established himself as one of the most creative and successful leaders in academic ophthalmology. From 2001 to 2007 he served as chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute of the University of Miami School of Medicine. He earned acclaim for creating and enacting a strategy for growth that propelled Bascom Palmer to new heights in clinical practice, education, and research. The faculty increased to 70 members from 33. Two satellite patient care centers were opened, extending Bascom Palmer’s services across South Florida. He guided fundraising for 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 research funding rose to more than $8 million in FY07 from $2.5 million in FY02, and its clinical revenues grew to more than $35 million in 2007 from $16 million. He led the rebuilding of the University of Miami’s vision research program, with successful competition for a new core grant, and increased the department’s ranking in NIH funding to 8th from 16th in five years.

Under Dr. Puliafito’s direction, Bascom Palmer seized back the No. 1 ranking in U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of eye hospitals in 2004, three years after his arrival, and has maintained that position in all subsequent years. 

Prior to his work at Bascom Palmer, Dr. Puliafito served as founding director of the New England Eye Center and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at Tufts University (1991 to 2001). There he accepted and met the challenge of building an eye program at Tufts that could compete with well-established counterparts in the Boston area. The Tufts program is recognized as a highly successful academic ophthalmology practice, with a strong research portfolio in epidemiology, imaging, and genetics, and a unique community-based outreach program which Dr. Puliafito developed. During this time he solidified his credentials as an administrator by earning an M.B.A. from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Puliafito is a winner of the Rosenthal Award and the J. Donald M. Gass Medal of the Macula Society. He received the Innovators Award of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery in 2005. He was awarded the Howe Medal of the University at Buffalo.

He has delivered numerous named lectures, including the Harvey E. Thorpe lecture of the Pittsburgh Ophthalmology Society, J. Donald M. Gass lectures of the Retina Society and the Ophthalmic Photographers Society, the Arthur Bedell and Inaugural Kenneth Nase lectures (Wills Eye Institute), the Samuel Kimura and Francis Proctor lectures (University of California, San Francisco), the Edward W. D. Norton Lecture (Bascom Palmer Eye Institute), the Mclean Award Lecture (Cornell Weill Medical College), the Taylor R. Smith memorial lectures (the New England Ophthalmologic Society and the Aspen Retinal Detachment Society), the Van Buskirk Lecture (Devers Eye Institute, Portland, Oregon), the Stuart Brown Lecture (University of California, San Diego), the W. Morton Grant Lecture (the New England Eye Center of Tufts University), the Knobloch Lecture (University of Minnesota), the Roscoe Kennedy Lecture (Cole Eye Institute of the Cleveland Clinic), the George Wise Lecture (Albert Einstein College of Medicine), the Kambara Lecture (Loma Linda University School of Medicine), and the Paul Sternberg Sr. Lecture (Vanderbilt University School of Medicine).

Dr. Puliafito started his career at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Harvard Medical School, where he was the founder of the Laser Research Laboratory, director of the Morse Laser Center, a member of the Retina Service, and associate professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School until 1991. A cum laude graduate of Harvard College and a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Medical School, Dr. Puliafito completed his residency and fellowships in ophthalmic pathology and vitreoretinal diseases and surgery at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. 

Dr. Puliafito is a native of Buffalo, New York, and graduated from St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute, where he has been inducted into the Signum Fidei Society. Dr. Puliafito has been married for more than 30 years to Dr. Janet H. Pine, associate professor of clinical psychiatry at USC, and has three children, Amy, Ben, and Sam. He lives in Pasadena, California. He is an award-winning philatelist and postal historian specializing in the United States Independent Mail Stamps of 1845 and 1846.



University of Southern California University of Southern California
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