Dr. Kenneth Cleveland

Dr. Ken Cleveland will take the reins of the Board of Medical Licensure, filling a nine-month vacancy left by his predecessor’s abrupt firing in May, the board confirmed Thursday.

Before his appointment as executive director, Cleveland, a surgeon, had been the CEO and primary physician at Ridgeland’s Remedy Health.

“I am thrilled to have this opportunity to serve and work for the great State of Mississippi and this esteemed board. I am committed to utilizing this talented staff and board to license efficiently and regulate fairly those professionals under our charge,” Cleveland said in a statement.

Cleveland, a native of Alabama, completed his residency at the University of Mississippi
Medical Center as Chief Surgical Resident in 2001.

Cleveland steps into the role of executive director during an unusually high-profile time for the state agency, which regulates Mississippi doctors. Last fall, the agency introduced a list of opioid prescribing recommendations meant to address the state’s nascent opioid problem. The list was met with widespread disapproval from health care providers and elected officials in the state.

The two doctors who preceded Cleveland did not have easy tenures, either.

In late 2016, a national survey in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ranked Mississippi last among 50 states and the District of Columbia in protecting patients from doctor sexual assault, scoring near the bottom of almost almost every category of patient-protection laws the study measured, including the transparency of the medical board.

When interviewed by the Journal-Constitution, Board of Licensure executive director Dr. Vann Craig explained that sexual assault was not a deal breaker in Mississippi.

“Let me say that it takes a lot of money to educate a physician. If they can be safely monitored and rehabilitated, I don’t see why they can’t come back from drugs, alcohol or sexual misconduct,” Craig said.

Craig resigned a few months after these statements became public. His successor, Dr. John Hall, came on board with what he believed was a mandate to “reform the agency,” he said last year to Mississippi Today.

One of the first areas he took on was doctor-patient sexual assault. Last January, Rep. Jeff Smith, R-Columbus, introduced legislation he and Hall had worked on together that would have criminalized sexual contact between doctor and patient. But many believed the bill — which made illegal any sexual contact, even consensual kissing — went too far.

One of those with mixed feelings was Dr. Charles Miles, president of the Board of Medical Licensure.

“I don’t believe a doctor should have sex with somebody he’s treating as a patient. Now should it be a felony? I’m not a lawyer, I’m not a legislator,” Miles said to Mississippi Today in January 2017.

In May, the board voted to dismiss Hall. Members didn’t give a reason, but Hall told Mississippi Today at the time that he wasn’t surprised.

“Yes and no. I have had a good run. I think I was probably more aggressive than — so, no, it wasn’t really a surprise,” he said.  “I just look at it as the board has a statutory right to sever our relationship anytime — and I’m okay with it.”

In a press release, Miles said the board selected Cleveland after a nationwide search and suggested the new executive director would shepherd the Board of Medical Licensure into a new era.

“In just this past year, we have been through an extensive evaluation process to assess
and improve how we function. We have been working on regulations to give better guidance to physicians on opioid prescribing. … I am confident that Dr. Cleveland will
build on the progress the board has made and lead this agency to a level that other boards across the nation will want to emulate,” Miles said.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Larrison Campbell is a Greenville native who reports on politics with an emphasis on public health. She received a bachelor’s from Wesleyan University and a master’s from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.Larrison is a 2018 National Press Foundation fellow in public health, a 2019 Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts fellow in health care reporting and a 2019 Center for Health Journalism National Fellow.