Dr. Jerome Adams was confirmed as the US surgeon general this week, pledging to take on the country’s opioid epidemic. Adams, who was nominated for the role by President Donald Trump, is the 20th surgeon general to hold the position.
“To be confirmed as the 20th US Surgeon General is truly an indescribable honor,” Adams tweeted Thursday.
Adams is an anesthesiologist who previously served as the Indiana state health commissioner — “in essence the Surgeon General for Indiana,” he said in a statement to the Senate committee. Prior to that, he served as a staff anesthesiologist and assistant professor of anesthesia at the Indiana University School of Medicine, where he completed his medical degree. He earned undergraduate degrees in biochemistry and biopsychology and a master’s degree in public health.
“The addictive properties of prescription opioids is a scourge in America and it must be stopped,” wrote Adams in his nomination committee statement. He added that he shared US Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s top priorities, including “the opioid epidemic, and untreated mental illness, which lie at the root of much of the current situation.”
“I bring to this discussion a unique perspective, and a proven track record of bringing together various groups to address the problem,” Adams wrote in his statement. In May 2015, he revealed that his brother is an addict during testimony at a House Energy and Commerce Committee.
That same year, Adams dealt with the lasting effects of drug use as health commissioner. Two-hundred nineteen people were infected with HIV in Southeast Indiana as a result of injecting the prescription opioid Opana. A needle exchange program was put into place to slow the outbreak.
Adams also vowed to make “wellness and community and employer engagement a centerpiece of my agenda.” He said the opioid epidemic, obesity, healthcare access and cost will not be successfully tackled if the nation continues to focus on handling these problems only “after they’ve taken hold.”
Adams takes over for the current Acting Surgeon General, Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams. She has been in the role since Dr. Vivek Murthy resigned at the request of the White House in April. The position of surgeon general was first created in 1871 to head the Marine Hospital Service, intended to relieve “sick and disabled seamen,” according to Rutgers School of Public Health. The surgeon general, who is nominated by the president for a four-year term and confirmed by Congress, oversees the Health Corp, within the US Department of Health and Human Services.
“Many people call the US Surgeon General the nation’s ‘Top Doctor,’ ” Adams wrote in his statement. He said the moniker doesn’t do justice to the many professions within the Health Corps, including nurses, pharmacists, therapists and scientists, and insinuates that one person can be “all things to health” — but doesn’t give “proper consideration to the vital role partnerships play.”
Adams tweeted: “The wonderful people of Indiana trusted and supported me, and ultimately this appointment is about what we’ve all accomplished together.”
Adams noted at his hearing that he is a father to three children, ages 7, 11 and 13 years old.
“When making decisions, I literally have no choice but to think about both the immediate impact on our nation’s children — my own children included — and the world I am leaving for future generations,” he said at that time.
“I hope to make America healthier,” wrote Adams in his statement. “Healthy people and communities are more productive, and profitable, and in turn attract more jobs and prosperity.”