Over the weekend, President Trump nominated current Indiana Health Commissioner Dr. Jerome Adams to be America’s next Surgeon General. The appointment would make Dr. Adams, a practicing anesthesiologist, the highest ranking doctor in the United States if his nomination is confirmed by the Senate.
Dr. Adams has compiled an impressive medical resume in Indiana, where former Governor Mike Pence appointed him to be the State’s Health Commissioner in 2014. Throughout his career, Adams has shown a penchant for bucking the traditional War on Drugs mentality by embracing new progressive approaches to eradicating the problem.
Shortly after being appointed by Pence, the Indiana Governor leaned on Adams during a rare HIV outbreak in a county near the Kentucky border. The surge in HIV cases was due to a culture of needle sharing in the area, so Adams recommended implementing a needle exchange. Eventually, the idea helped alleviate the issue by getting infected needles off the street and giving people a chance to get connected with the care they so desperately needed.
“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,” Adams told the New York Times in a 2015 interview.
Pence, who has a history of treating drugs as a criminal justice issue rather than a healthcare one, had serious concerns with the concept but listened to Adams when the outbreak continued. Pence approved a 30-day emergency needle exchange program before subsequently signing a new law allowing the practice in Indiana going forward in 2015.
Having a Surgeon General in office with a proven impact on some of the more ideological figures in Washington will be crucial in the next four years and beyond, as Americans face a number of growing health crises when you consider the consider the risk factors of our food, our drugs, and our environment.
But the possible next Surgeon General of the United States is focused on prevention as well as reaction, having been outspoken on the issue of prescription painkiller addiction in America — specifically their over-prescription by doctors. Adams testified earlier this year in support of SB 226, a bill that aimed to limit the amount of opioids a physician could prescribe to a first-time user of the powerful painkiller or children under the age of 18. Adams argued that limiting the amount of leftover drugs after pain management has been sufficiently completed could help reduce the number of patients who get addicted to the pills and subsequently turn to dangerous alternatives when the prescription runs dry. Almost 80 percent of surveyed heroin users in the state of Indiana at the time of the survey blamed their addiction on what started as a doctor’s prescription.
“Fixing this problem isn’t as easy as telling doctors to quit prescribing opioids,” Adams said during his statement. “Opioids do have a purpose in pain management when used in moderation. It’s important to also consider pain management techniques that don’t involve addictive drugs.”
If confirmed, Dr. Adams would replace the acting Surgeon General, Sylvia Trent-Adams. Trent-Adams took over the role in late-April, when President Trump relieved Obama administration-holdout Dr. Vivek Murthy, an advocate of medical marijuana’s therapeutic value, of his duties.
Image Courtesy of Gretchen Frazee
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