Trump Nominates Indiana Health Commissioner as Surgeon General
President Trump has nominated Dr. Jerome M. Adams, the health commissioner for Indiana and a strong advocate of needle exchanges to avoid the spread of disease, to be the surgeon general of the United States.
Dr. Adams, 42, was first appointed to the Indiana post in October 2014 when Vice President Mike Pence was governor. Shortly after Dr. Adams took office, there was an unusual H.I.V. outbreak in Scott County, a rural Indiana community near the Kentucky border.
Dr. Adams later recalled his meeting on the topic with Mr. Pence, state health officials and doctors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “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?’” Dr. Adams said in an interview with The New York Times. “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 needle exchange is credited with helping to stop the outbreak, which had spread largely among people injecting the prescription painkiller Opana.
Dr. Adams also said he believed exchanges were “not a panacea,” and their value should not be overstated.
“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,” he said.
Dr. Adams, who trained as an anesthesiologist, has also been outspoken about the risks of prescription opioid painkillers and the need to address the opioid epidemic.
Charles N. Rothberg, president of the Medical Society of the State of New York, said Dr. Adams reminded him of C. Everett Koop, who was surgeon general through much of the 1980s. “Dr. Adams has a proven track record to make public health a priority despite political hurdles,” Dr. Rothberg said in an email. “Dr. Adams is in touch with the public needs.”
Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, who was at the Food and Drug Administration in the Obama administration, said Dr. Adams was a great choice.
“I think it’s great to have a state health officer as surgeon general because it’s a job that really defies politics,” said Dr. Sharfstein, who is now an associate dean at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “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, who is married and has three children, received bachelor’s degrees in biochemistry and biopsychology from the University of Maryland in 1997. He then earned a master’s degree in public health from the University of California at Berkeley, and a medical degree from the Indiana University School of Medicine.
His LinkedIn page says he is also an assistant professor of anesthesiology at Indiana University Health, and cares for patients at Eskenazi Health, Indianapolis’s publicly funded hospital.
If confirmed by the Senate, Dr. Adams would join another prominent health official in the Trump administration who was brought in from Mr. Pence’s state: Seema Verma, who is now the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
He would replace Sylvia Trent-Adams, who has been acting surgeon general since Mr. Trump ousted Dr. Vivek Murthy, a holdover from the Obama administration. The surgeon general is often called “the nation’s doctor,” and works to improve public health. The surgeon general also oversees the 6,700 public health officers, many of whom work in underserved areas.
The post has traditionally served as a bully pulpit, and past surgeons general have used it to campaign against tobacco, obesity and gun violence. It was Dr. Murthy’s stance against gun violence that appeared to have led to his dismissal.