Ex-supervisor wouldn’t endorse Ladapo as Florida’s top doctor, records show

Dr. Joseph Ladapo and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A former supervisor of Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo declined to recommend Ladapo to lead the state's health department during a background check, records show.

The University of California, Los Angeles supervisor of Ladapo is not identified by name in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement background investigation, which was requested by the state Senate as part of Ladapo's confirmation process.

Ladapo, appointed in September by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, has drawn scrutiny over his alignment with the governor in resisting coronavirus vaccine mandates and other virus policies embraced by federal health officials.

According to the report, the supervisor was asked if he or she would recommend Ladapo as surgeon general and if the supervisor had confidence in Ladapo's ability, honesty and integrity to be Florida's top doctor.

The supervisor's response was “No. In my opinion the people of Florida would be better served by a surgeon general who grounds his policy decisions and recommendations in the best scientific evidence rather than opinions.”

The USA Today Network-Florida first reported the supervisor's comments Thursday. A copy of the background report has been shared with The Associated Press.

The supervisor also noted Ladapo's outspoken resistance to various coronavirus mandates, saying Ladapo had “created stress and acrimony” at UCLA. Still, the supervisor said Ladapo “met all of the contractual obligations for the position that he was hired to perform, which is the underpinning of my otherwise satisfactory evaluation.”

The background check found no other “derogatory information" other than the supervisor's statements.

A spokesman for the Florida Department of Health said the unnamed UCLA supervisor’s comments were meant to “smear” Ladapo during his confirmation process. He added that Ladapo has held roles at New York University and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and mentioned Ladapo’s research experience in cardiovascular disease and other topics.

“It’s unfortunate that a single comment from a disgruntled supervisor would find facilitating discussions a cause for concern, especially during such an ever-evolving medical landscape. This is not cause for concern,” said health department spokesman Jeremy T. Redfern.

Ladapo was an associate professor of medicine at UCLA from 2016 to 2021. He was hired by the University of Florida College of Medicine as he took the job of Florida surgeon general.

The University of Florida, through a records request, sent the AP recommendation letters from three UCLA professors on behalf of Ladapo, all of which praised him as accomplished and well-qualified through years of clinical research and teaching experience.

In one of the letters, Soma Wali, chair of the school's medicine department, wrote that Ladapo is "compassionate, extremely thoughtful, and highly creative. In addition, he possesses a high degree of integrity." In another, Carol M. Mangione, chief of UCLA’s division of general internal medicine and health service research, wrote that he “has been one of our most productive faculty with continuous federal research funding from several grants and a large number of impactful peer reviewed research publications since his appointment.”

The unnamed UCLA supervisor’s comments were made public about a week after Ladapo had a tense confirmation hearing in a Senate committee where Democrats accused him of evading questions and eventually stormed out of the room. Republicans on the committee advanced his nomination after the Democratic walkout. Ladapo’s confirmation still needs to go before another committee and then the full Senate, which is controlled by Republicans.