The position of Surgeon General of the United States is considered to be “the nation’s doctor.” And at 42-years-old, Dr. Jerome M. Adams, has been nominated by President Trump to become the nation’s next top doctor. This is after he has spent a few years serving as the health commissioner for Indiana.
While serving as the health commissioner for Indiana, Dr. Adams was a strong advocate for needle exchange programs, which help to avoid the spread of disease.
He was appointed to the health commissioner’s post in Indiana in October 2014 when Vice President Mike Pence was Indiana’s governor. During his time in Indiana, Dr. Adams was witness to an unusual H.I.V. outbreak in Scott County, a rural Indiana community near the Kentucky border.
Speaking about the H.I.V. outbreak he was witnessing, Dr. Adams remembers discussing the situation with former governor, Mike Pence, and state health officials from the C.D.C. “The governor looked to me and he looked to C.D.C. and said, ‘What do we need to do to respond to this outbreak?’ The C.D.C. felt strongly, and I agreed, that providing syringes was the appropriate response, that this is an extraordinary situation that requires extraordinary measures.”
The implementation of the needle exchange program was credited with helping to stem the tide of the outbreak, which was spreading primarily among people injecting the prescription painkiller Opana. Dr. Adams noted that the exchanges were “not a panacea,” and their value should not be overstated. In speaking about the chances of the program being successful, Dr. Adams said, “It’s only going to work if it allows us to connect people to the resources they need to get clean, to get off drugs and get their infectious diseases appropriately diagnosed and treated.” Dr. Adams was originally trained as a doctor of anesthesiology.
The president of the Medical Society of the State of New York, Charles N. Rothberg said, “Dr. Adams has a proven track record to make public health a priority despite political hurdles. He is in touch with the public needs.” The head of the FDA under President Obama, Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, said Dr. Adams was a great choice. Sharfstein stated, “I think it’s great to have a state health officer as surgeon general because it’s a job that really defies politics. From everything I’ve seen, Dr. Adams is a very serious and capable physician and public health official. This is an opportunity to speak to the problems as they are and not as they are viewed through an ideological prism.”
Dr. Adams is married and has three children. He is still an assistant professor of anesthesiology at Indiana University Health and cares for patients at Indianapolis’s publicly funded hospital, Eskenazi Health.
If Dr. Adams receives Senate confirmation, his role as surgeon general would have him oversee 6,700 public health officers, many of whom work in underserved areas.