Puliafito, who grew up in Buffalo, New York, received a degree in medicine from Harvard Medical School and completed a residency in ophthalmology and a fellowship in vitreoretinal surgery at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. He has an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
He was appointed dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC in December 2007. Before that, he had been director of the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and chair of the department of ophthalmology. In 2012, he was 21st of the most highly paid research university executives in the United States.
In March 2016, Puliafito resigned as dean of the Keck School of Medicine, and USC professor Rohit Varma was appointed interim dean. After leaving USC, he took a role as chief of strategic development with a pharmaceutical company called Ophthotech that was developing new drugs for eye diseases; he was laid off along with 80% of the staff in December 2016 when two Phase III clinical trials produced negative results.
His license G 88200 in the State of California was revoked based on discipline orders on August 17, 2018.
Puliafito was one of the inventors of optical coherence tomography; for this work, James Fujimoto, Eric Swanson and Puliafito received a Rank Prize for Opto-Electronics in 2002. In 2012, Fujimoto, Swanson, and David Huang, with Puliafito and Joel Schuman, received an António Champalimaud Vision Award from the Champalimaud Foundation.
2017 Los Angeles Times report
The Los Angeles Times reported in July 2017 that while Pulafito served as dean and USC professor, he "kept company with a circle of criminals and drug users who said he used methamphetamine and other drugs with them." The reporters reviewed video and photographs of Puliafito engaging in these activities in hotel rooms, apartments, and the dean's office. According to the newspaper, a 21-year-old prostitute had overdosed while taking drugs with Puliafito in a Pasadena hotel room on March 4, 2016; the article included a recording of a conversation between a 911 operator and Puliafito. The report said that police had found methamphetamine in the room. Three weeks later, on March 24, 2016, Puliafito resigned as dean of the Keck School of Medicine.
Immediately following the publication of the Los Angeles Times report, USC announced that Puliafito had been placed "on leave from his roles at USC, including seeing patients."
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- 2012: Williams & Fujimoto, Huang, Puliafito, Schuman, Swanson. Champalimaud Foundation. Accessed February 2015.
- Michels S, Rosenfeld PJ, Puliafito CA, Marcus EN, Venkatraman AS. (2005). Systemic bevacizumab (Avastin) therapy for neovascular age-related macular degeneration twelve-week results of an uncontrolled open-label clinical study. Ophthalmology 112:1035–47.
- Rosenfeld PJ, Moshfegi AA, Puliafito CA. (2005). Optical coherence tomography findings after an intravitreal injection of bevacizumab (Avastin) for neovascular age-related macular degeneration. Ophthalmic Surgery, Lasers & Imaging 36: 331–5.
- Rich RM, Rosenfeld PJ, Puliafito CA, et al. (2006). Short-term safety and efficacy of intravitreal bevacizumab (Avastin) for neovascular age-related macular degeneration. Retina 26: 495–511.
- Moshfegi AA, Rosenfeld PJ, Puliafito CA, et al. (2006). Systemic bevacizumab (Avastin) therapy for neovascular age-related macular degeneration: twenty-four-week results of an uncontrolled open-label clinical study. Ophthalmology 113: 2002–11.
- Adam Elmahrek, Sarah Parvini, Paul Pringle & Matt Hamilton, Former USC medical school dean no longer seeing patients; Pasadena police discipline officer, Los Angeles Times (July 17, 2017).