State regulators have revoked the license of a Minneapolis plastic surgeon repeatedly accused over many years of molesting female clients during appointments.
The Minnesota Board of Medical Practice issued a statement last week noting that Christopher Kovanda is no longer licensed to practice medicine in Minnesota because of "conduct with a patient which is sexual or may reasonably be interpreted by the patient as sexual, or in any verbal behavior which is seductive or sexually demeaning to a patient."
The board, which had suspended the 56-year-old doctor's license in March, also levied a civil penalty of $15,360 to cover the costs of the agency's investigation and related board proceedings.
Kovanda's latest clinic was located on Excelsior Avenue in Minneapolis, and he previously practiced in Maple Grove, the 50th & France retail district of Edina as Kovanda Plastic Surgery and before that as a partner at Midwest Plastic Surgery in the Southdale Medical Building, also in Edina.
A licensed doctor in Minnesota since 1999, Kovanda has been the subject of sexual misconduct investigations by police in each of those cities but has never been charged with a crime.
Four women's allegations, spanning from 2010 until 2019, were investigated by the board and given to Administrative Law Judge Steven Bialick in April to review and rule on their credibility. Bialick found two of the women's allegations to be sufficiently credible, and the board agreed, according to the license revocation order dated Aug. 4.
Messages were left Tuesday with Kovanda and his attorneys seeking a response to him losing his license to practice in Minnesota and to the allegations behind the action.
One of Kovanda's attorneys, Nicole Brand, said Tuesday that "we maintain that the allegations are not true, and Dr. Kovanda is evaluating options regarding this decision."
Under questioning in a sworn deposition for a lawsuit in February, Kovanda repeatedly denied one patient's allegations.
However, when Kovanda met with the board in October 2019, he acknowledged treating one woman "differently than all his other patients [and] admitted that [she] might have perceived his actions as sexual," one board public notice read. He also acknowledged that he learned during a mandatory course he took as part of an earlier discipline that hugging patients was a violation of professional boundaries.
One of Kovanda's accusers told the Star Tribune that learning of the revocation gave her a sense of "relief knowing that it's over and knowing that he can't do this to anybody else ever again."
Kelley McIntyre, who agreed to have her name included in this article, said what she alleged Kovanda did to her "has been very impactful" on her life.
"In the beginning, I used to cry at work," she said. "It's affected my trust in doctors, and I am very cautious on doctors that I will go and see. I do my due diligence to make sure that I look them up before I even will go and see them because now I just do not trust doctors."
The substantiated accounts in connection with the revocation include one woman who said Kovanda caressed her hand, put his hands on her hips while standing close behind her before pressing his groin against her elevated feet.
The other patient whose allegations were found credible said that during an appointment in Maple Grove in 2010 Kovanda lunged at her, put his hands on her breasts and straddled her knee to the point that she could feel his genitals.
In a deposition included in the board's case file against Kovanda, the woman testified that after the contact "I jerked back and — stunned and like, 'What are you doing?' And then he just quickly backed off and continued with the exam."
The woman said she didn't go to police until Dec. 3, 2021, one day after she saw an article in the Star Tribune about allegations.
"The situation has bothered her for a long time, and seeing ... the news makes her feel it is part of a bigger problem," according to a State Office of Administrative Hearings document signed by Administrative Law Judge Bialick and prepared for the board.
Either through complaints with the medical board or in lawsuits, a total of at least six women have accused Kovanda of sexual misconduct since 2008.
One board document cites an ex-wife of Kovanda's who said in an affidavit as part of a marital dissolution that her former husband "admitted to me on multiple occasions he had sex with several of his patients." Kovanda denied that allegation in testimony to the board, the document noted.
Jeff Montpetit, an attorney for one of two women who sued Kovanda, called the license revocation "the right result, but it just took too long to get there."
Montpetit, whose client reached a confidential settlement with Kovanda, said, "I still get multiple calls about this guy [alleging sexual misconduct]. I would estimate I have talked to 20 people."
The attorney said he's been telling women reaching out to him that he sees little chance they would ever collect any money for damages against Kovanda, who has filed for bankruptcy and is in the midst of divorce proceedings.
Mara Brust, an attorney for another woman who similarly settled her suit against Kovanda, said, "We are proud of all the women that came forward and spoke up to ensure that Dr. Kovanda will no longer be able to harm another patient. While it can sometimes feel like our system moves slowly, it's a relief to finally see some justice for these victims."
The state board has reprimanded Kovanda twice leading up to his license suspension this spring and now him losing it altogether.
One complaint filed with the board accused Kovanda of having sex with one of his patients and led to a reprimand more than a decade ago. Two others were investigated by the board and "closed without action," said Ruth Martinez, the panel's executive director.
Martinez said Tuesday that "I really can't comment on the timeline it takes to get to this action."
More generally, she added, "The board's mandatory obligation is public protection, so that is the basis for how they evaluated the conduct in this case."
McIntyre, one of Kovanda's accusers, said, "It did take a long time for the board to make this decision, and it did bother me that it took this long. However, I do understand that we also had to deal with a global pandemic at the same time, and that they needed to do their due diligence to make sure that they were getting their facts straight."
Martinez said every state licensing board is being notified of Kovanda losing his Minnesota license, should he seek to practice elsewhere.
Kovanda could apply for a new license in Minnesota, since the revocation does not have a set time limit, nor is it considered a lifetime ban, Martinez said.
However, "off the top of my head," said Martinez, who has been with the board since 1988, "I'm not recalling someone who's come back from a revocation. ... I believe that would stand out in my memory."