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Medical director of Nevada prisons not licensed as a physician in the state

(Credit: Nevada Department of Corrections)

Dana Gentry, Nevada Current
February 23, 2024

The medical director of the Nevada Department of Corrections, Dr. Kenneth Williams, has no medical license in Nevada, the state’s Board of Medical Examiners confirmed Friday. The board’s investigator did not respond to requests for comment.

“Dr. Williams is currently licensed in Tennessee,” NDOC assistant director William Quenga said Friday in an interview. “He is currently ongoing to get his medical license and he’s working with the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners.”

Doctors licensed in other states can be endorsed by that state as a means of expediting licensure in Nevada. However, they cannot practice in Nevada in the interim.  

“This position requires licensure by the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners as a physician or administrative physician,” says the state’s job solicitation for the position. 

Under Nevada law, practicing medicine without a license is a category D felony. 

“I don’t believe he’s practicing medicine,” Assistant Director William Quenga said Friday, adding that NDOC Director James Dzurenda, who appointed Williams to his position in August 2023, is aware Williams has no license and is “talking with the Nevada medical board.” 

Nevada Revised Statute 630 says doctors who work in an administrative capacity are required to have an administrative license, which Williams does not have, according to the Board of Medical Examiners. They “may not engage in the practice of clinical medicine.”   

The State of Nevada’s job solicitation for the position says the “Medical Director is the clinical health authority for the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC); responsible for clinical and medical determinations within the department.”

The position pays up to $217,000 a year, the job solicitation says.

Additionally, the Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City has a hospice. NRS 449.196 says “No person, state or local government or agency may represent that it provides ‘hospice care’ unless the program of care, either directly or indirectly has a medical director whose responsibilities are appropriate to the needs of the program and who is a physician, currently licensed to practice.”

Health providers who work for NDOC, including those who inquired with the Board of Medical Examiners about Williams’ status, say he is practicing medicine. 

“I think not having a license invalidates a lot of decisions he makes and there are concerns among providers because of that. I know he has participated in utilization reviews, and is making critical decisions that affect individual patient care,” said a provider who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation. “Some doctors are not agreeing with some decisions, but it’s what  they’re being told to do, so they’re writing the order and they’re writing ‘per the medical director.’”

Another provider says Williams denied a request for sunscreen from an inmate who has skin cancer, noting it could be purchased from the commissary. 

“The guy won’t have any money. He won’t be able to buy it, and he’ll file a grievance. After a process he’ll ultimately file a lawsuit and we will lose that lawsuit,” the provider said. “Thousands of dollars will be paid out over sunscreen.”

As medical director of the Tennessee Department of Corrections, Williams was sued when he refused to provide anti-viral medication to inmates diagnosed with Hepatitis C. The case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which found in Williams’ favor, upholding a lower court’s ruling that he did not act with “deliberate indifference” but rather, in an effort to use the finite resources at his disposal where they could be used for the maximum benefit.  

Earlier this month, an inmate at High Desert State Prison near Indian Springs filed a lawsuit against Williams and the NDOC, alleging Williams and the medical staff have promised but failed to provide care for painful bullet wounds.  

Quenga of NDOC said he was unaware of the lawsuit.

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.