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Board punts probe of unlicensed prison medical director to AG 

Williams is pictured here in a screengrab from a 2020 Tennessee Department of Corrections video. (Credit: Nevada Current)

Dana Gentry, Nevada Current
March 28, 2024

It took the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners three months to determine it has no jurisdiction over Dr. Kenneth Williams, medical director of Nevada’s prisons, who has been practicing medicine without a license since September of last year when he joined the Department.  

In February, the Current reported Williams, who served as medical director of Tennessee’s prisons, lacked the minimum qualification listed in the state’s job solicitation – a medical license in Nevada. Practicing medicine without a state license is a felony. 

“He is currently ongoing to get his medical license and he’s working with the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners,” Nevada Department of Corrections Assistant Director William Quenga said on Feb. 22. 

Williams was hired by NDOC Director James Dzurenda, who was appointed to his position by Gov. Joe Lombardo. Lombardo has not responded to numerous requests for comment. The Board of Medical Examiners’ members are appointed by the governor.

According to the board’s executive director Edward Cousineau, Williams applied on Dec. 28, 2023 for a medical license, four months after he assumed the role of NDOC’s medical director. 

In a letter dated March 4, the board’s Chief of Investigations Ernesto Diaz, told prison doctors who filed complaints that the board had opened an investigation. 

“When the initial phase of the investigation is completed, the case will be presented to the Investigative Committee (IC) of the Board which meets four times a calendar year,” Diaz wrote. 

Last week, the Current questioned Cousineau regarding the board’s lack of jurisdiction over an unlicensed physician. 

“We have no jurisdiction,” Cousineau said, but declined to elaborate how the board could investigate Williams, given its lack of jurisdiction. 

The following day, on March 22, Diaz wrote to the prison medical providers who filed complaints that “the facts alleged in your complaint do not constitute a violation of the Nevada Medical Practice Act. The Board has no jurisdiction over a Non-Licensee of the Board. We will forward your complaint to the Attorney General’s office for further review of the information and alleged violations.”

Attorney General Aaron Ford did not respond to requests for comment. 

“We have no comment,” said Quenga of NDOC. 

‘Rules for thee and not for me’ 

“It is the mission of the Nevada Department of Corrections to protect society by maintaining offenders in safe and humane conditions while preparing them for successful reentry back into society,” says NDOC’s website. “We operate as one Team, proud of our reputation as leaders in corrections.”

Athar Haseebullah, executive director of the ACLU of Nevada, says Williams’s lack of a Nevada medical license is alarming. 

“The most consistent complaint we receive about Nevada prisons is related to medical neglect or improper medical treatment,” he said in a statement to the Current. “Moreover, NDOC and the state continue to seek execution drugs from other places to misuse medication in executions, even without the consent of the businesses making these pharmaceuticals. The ‘rules for thee and not for me’ approach the government undertakes is beyond problematic.” 

Williams stopped chairing the department utilization review board meetings following the Current’s story in February, according to several providers. However, he has continued to practice medicine by dictating treatment protocol. 

“Williams is still ruling the roost and making life miserable for all of our prisoners,” said a provider who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation. The provider says Williams routinely denies requests for medical treatment. “He doesn’t approve anything and we’re the ones that get stuck telling people, ‘sorry, you need to walk around with whatever the problem is.’”

“How can we let him continue to do this when he doesn’t have a license? Yet the rest of us had to get a license,” the provider asked. 

Williams also lacks a license from the state’s Board of Pharmacy, for which a Nevada medical license is a prerequisite.

Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: info@nevadacurrent.com. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Nevada Current under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.