State report card

The report card for each state contains the scores it received when we evaluated it for how well it protects patients against sexually abusive doctors. The overall rating is the average of the score the state received in each category. In states with two medical boards, one for osteopathic physicians and the other for medical doctors, the overall rating is based on an average of each board’s scores.

Click on the boxes below to read how Tennessee did on each category — and how we calculated the score for the categories.


State rating (out of 100)

  • Board composition: 73
    Are consumer members included to balance physicians’ tendency to identify with their colleagues? More...
    A blueprint developed by The Federation of State Medical Boards recognized the importance of having independent public members on physician-dominated medical regulatory agencies. To assess the composition of disciplinary agencies, the AJC used three measures, with the most weight given to consumer representation. Top grades went to states where public members make up at least 40 percent of the board; where those members represent consumers and where neither they nor their family members have professional or financial ties to health care; and where women hold at least 40 percent of the board seats.
    • Are public members independent and do they represent consumers?: 15 of 25
      For the medical board, state law says the three public members can neither own nor have any financial or other interest in any health care facility, business or school of medicine. For the osteopathic board, one public member cannot be engaged in any profession, business or activity regulated by the board. State law calls for the governor to strive to ensure that at least one board member is a racial minority and one is at least age 60 or older.

More from Tennessee

Highlighted case

Dr. Sheran Arden Yeates

In 2004, following a raid of Yeates’ office by law enforcement, the Department of Health issued a summary suspension of his license. That order says he engaged in sexual activities with female staff members during business hours, in full view of patients.

The agency also said he had committed acts of sexual misconduct on a female staff member and on a female patient while they were unconscious.

Among other charges, the order says he required patients to be injected with a drug cocktail he concocted before he would treat them, though there was no medical justification for the drugs.

The state revoked his license a few months later.

Following the raid, the Associated Press reported that Yeates was accused of rape in a 2000 case involving a hospital employee. Charges in that case had been dropped in 2001 after testimony from two female employees as alibi witnesses. In 2003, the women were arrested and charged with perjury and filing a false report.

Prosecutors then charged Yeates in that rape case, and in 2006 he pleaded guilty to lesser charges and was sentenced to two years in prison, the Jackson Sun reported.

Separately, he pleaded guilty to health care fraud and was sentenced to 10 months on that charge.

Efforts to reach Yeates for comment have been unsuccessful.

Researching a doctor

  • Accurate records of sexual abuse accusations against doctors are not always easily accessible. In Tennessee, the best chance of finding problems is to search the records offered by the Tennessee Department of Health. Please note that license search results typically include all public disciplinary actions, not just those involving sexual misconduct, and can sometimes include vague language. Also, some states deal with some disciplinary issues privately; private board orders are not included.

Complaint process

The board investigates anonymous complaints. In cases with signed complaints, the name of the person filing the complaint can be kept confidential, but the board warns that the doctor may infer who filed the complaint if the board requests medical records on the patient.


“As the result of my involvement, I lost my employment with the medical practice I had been with for fourteen years. My 21-year marriage fell apart, and as a result, I have been living apart from my three children. Physically, mentally, and financially, the stress has been tremendous. … I have paid a high price and shamed myself and my family.”

— Dr. Earl McElheney, at his 2007 sentencing on federal charges for receiving child pornography. He was released from prison in 2012, but in March 2016 he was arrested in Stone Mountain, Ga., where he lives with his elderly parents, and was charged with battery and abuse/neglect/exploitation of the elderly or disabled, federal court documents show. According to a police report, he was uncooperative with police while being taken into custody. He bit one officer, cursed at his parents and used racial slurs in the police car, according to the report.

Key fact

One doctor had his license revoked in 1991 for prescribing practices, reinstated in 1993, revoked again in 2001 after he was convicted of three misdemeanor counts of assault by offensive touching involving patients, and reinstated again in 2002. (The 2002 reinstatement limited him to practicing in a male prison facility or in an administrative role with no patient contact.)

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