Friends, colleagues and former students of Carmen A. Puliafito, MD, MBA, gathered for a reception in recognition of his leadership and accomplishments as the former dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Kind words and excited greetings were exchanged at the intimate reception of about 150 people, held June 7 on the Broad Lawn at the Health Sciences Campus.

Puliafito, recognized worldwide as an innovator in the diagnosis and treatment of retinal disease and an accomplished leader in academic medicine, began his career as dean in 2007. He was tasked with ensuring accreditation of the school’s teaching programs and leading the school to the top ranks through medical breakthroughs and recruiting top-notch faculty.

“Today, USC has one of our nation’s preeminent medical schools and medical enterprises, thanks in no small measure to the leadership of Carmen Puliafito,” USC President C. L. Max Nikias said. “Carmen’s proven business expertise meshed perfectly with his superb medical skills, and he brought a new generation of exceptional clinical leaders, department chairs and world-class talent to our campuses.”

Puliafito shared a note that he wrote before accepting the job as dean. The note listed things he planned to accomplish, which included creating a robust university-based academic medical practice and recruitment and leadership in neuroscience, regenerative medicine, oncology and bioengineering. He said he felt best about his recruitment efforts.

“I feel best about that because I think the primary job of dean of a medical school is to bring leaders that will really set the tone of the organization,” he said. “What did I love about the job? I like the institutional culture at the medical school, it’s part of the Trojan Family but a little bit different, and the sense of clinical excellence, commitment to the county and private patients, and our USC doctors really are the best doctors in Los Angeles.”

Rohit Varma, MD, MPH, interim dean of Keck School of Medicine of USC and director of the USC Roski Eye Institute, described Puliafito as an exceptionally creative physician who has changed the world of vision science for the better for millions of patients. Puliafito is recognized as co-inventor of the technology of optical coherence tomography (OCT), and was the first ophthalmologist to use this technology to study the human macula in health and disease.

“Not only has he led our school, he has contributed enormously to our clinical research and education mission,” Varma said. “He has been a truly loyal shepherd of our school and we are deeply indebted to him.”

— L. Alexis Young