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Unlicensed medical director of Nevada prison system on leave, facing termination 

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by Dana Gentry, Nevada Current

The medical director of the Nevada Department of Corrections, Dr. Kenneth Williams, who lacks a medical license in the state, is on administrative leave, prison officials confirmed. 

Deputy Director Kristina Shea said during a phone interview Friday the state has issued a mandate to Williams.  

“He needs to be able to prove that he has a medical license in order for him to be able to continue working with us,” she said, adding the state has imposed a deadline. “If he doesn’t have a license by that date, I believe there’s a termination clause.” 

NDOC declined to disclose the deadline. 

According to sources who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, at least five practitioners from NDOC medical facilities have been interviewed in the last two weeks by Attorney General Aaron Ford’s office.

“They have flooded the AG with documentation that Dr. Williams practiced medicine,” one of the sources said. Practicing medicine without a license is a felony in Nevada. Even administrative physicians who don’t engage in clinical care are required to be licensed. 

Williams was hired by NDOC Director James Dzurenda in August of 2023, despite lacking the minimum requirement for the job – a state medical license. Dzurenda allowed Williams to practice from August of last year until after the Current reported his lack of a license in February. 

“It’s important to me and the director, from the leadership perspective, that he has a license. So we’re taking it very seriously,” Shea said. 

Williams applied for a Nevada license Dec. 28 of last year, according to the Board of Medical Examiners, four months after he began practicing in Nevada.

“He is currently ongoing to get his medical license and he’s working with the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners,” Deputy Director William Quenga said at the time. 

The medical board initiated an investigation into complaints about Williams filed by practitioners, according to a letter obtained by the Current, despite its lack of jurisdiction over unlicensed physicians. 

When questioned by the Current, the medical board’s executive director acknowledged the board had no jurisdiction, and turned the case over to the Attorney General. 

Dzurenda, who was appointed by Gov. Joe Lombardo, has refused to say why he hired Williams, given his lack of credentials. Lombardo has also refused to address the state’s potential liability for employing an unlicensed medical director, given its legal obligation to provide care for inmates. 

Inmates have filed four lawsuits against Williams for denying medical care, the most recent last month, according to federal court records.

Ford, a potential challenger to Lombardo in 2026, declined to say whether an investigation would include how the state hired an unqualified prison medical director. 

“I would not be able to confirm or deny any investigation,” Ford said via text. 

Practitioners at NDOC’s medical facilities complain Williams made clinical decisions that affected the care and well-being of inmates, and is still ordering staffing changes, even though he is on leave with pay. 

Correspondence provided to the Current by a practitioner indicates Williams was participating in staffing decisions as recently as last week.

”I know he can’t make any clinical decisions because that’s part of the mandate, but I don’t know what kind of staffing decisions he’s making right now,” Shea said. 

“Dr. Williams is not involved in any decision making,” Shea’s colleague Quenga said Friday.

Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network 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: [email protected]. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.

Nevada Current
Nevada Currenthttps://www.nevadacurrent.com
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: [email protected]. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.

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