P

resident Trump has nominated Indiana’s health commissioner, Dr. Jerome Adams, to be the next surgeon general, the White House announced Thursday.

If confirmed, Adams would replace Dr. Vivek Murthy, who was ousted by the Trump administration in April.

Adams was appointed to his current post in Indiana by Vice President Mike Pence when he was governor. Adams would be at least the second top health official in the Trump administration who had previous connections to Pence. Seema Verma, who administers Medicare and Medicaid in the administration, was previously a health consultant who worked with Pence to reform Indiana’s Medicaid program.

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Adams was trained as an anesthesiologist and has been an advocate for addressing the opioid epidemic — an issue Murthy took on when he was surgeon general. Adams also has had to face the public health consequences of opioid addiction head-on as health commissioner, most notably when an HIV outbreak erupted in Scott County.

The first cases were reported in November 2014 — just one month after Adams came to lead the health department — and within a year, health officials had identified at least 181 cases in the town of Austin, which had a population of fewer than 5,000 people.

The virus was being transmitted by people sharing needles to inject a prescription painkiller. The outbreak reached such a scale that Pence, overcoming his personal opposition to needle exchanges, authorized an emergency clean needle program, and the state later reversed its ban on such programs.

Critics of the response, however, have said Pence was too slow to launch a needle exchange program, allowing the virus to spread to more people. Needle exchanges have been shown to reduce the spread of infectious diseases.

“We don’t have all the answers, but we are learning as we go,” Adams wrote in May 2015. “We are building a model for prevention and response should this type of outbreak happen in other communities in the U.S. I would like nothing better than to tell you this unprecedented HIV epidemic will never happen anywhere else. But I can’t do that.”

Earlier this month, Adams highlighted the importance of needle exchanges and their role in helping people in Indiana.

“No matter how uncomfortable syringe service programs make us, they are proven to save lives, both by preventing the spread of diseases like HIV and hepatitis C, and by connecting people to treatment that can put them on a path to recovery,” he wrote.

Adams has also worked to expand naloxone, the overdose antidote, in Indiana.

In a tweet Thursday, Adams wrote that he was “honored” to be nominated and that he was “looking forward to working to improve health.”

Sara Johnson of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, who has worked with Adams, said in addition to opioids, his priorities have included reducing the use of tobacco and bringing down the state’s infant mortality rate. She said Adams brought a passion to the job and is a strong advocate for public health.

“He’s a trusted partner in working with clinicians and public health officials. He’s one of those people who’s easy to work with,” Johnson said. “This is a perfect fit for him.”

Trump met with Adams in November after the election, but the two have taken taken different positions in the past.

During the West African Ebola outbreak, for example, Adams provided measured information about the disease and tried to correct myths. Trump falsely stated that the virus was spreading all over Africa and called to block flights from the continent.

And while Trump is now backing a GOP effort to repeal and replace Obamacare — which would end the expansion of Medicaid that Indiana and 30 other states implemented — Adams has praised the expansion has a way to improve access and care. (Pence and Verma designed Indiana’s expansion with some conservative reforms, such as requiring some beneficiaries to pay monthly premiums, and Adams specifically highlighted the state’s model of the expansion, saying it would help residents “to be able to work and better themselves as opposed to trapping them in an income-based entitlement program.”)

The Medicaid expansion also helped stem the Austin HIV outbreak by extending coverage to people in the community, according to a New England Journal of Medicine paper. The authors of the paper included a number of officials from the state health department, but not Adams.

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  • Wow, this guy actually sounds like he might be qualified to do his job, despite being chosen by Pence and Trump! A refreshing change from the parade of super-rich corporate moguls and long-term Republican hacks that have made up so much of Trump’s administration.

  • once again a civilian with no military experience or bearing is brought into this highly honored position to lead a uniform service and our nation’s medical team. We have so many talented and dedicated people within our uniform drinks highly qualified to be selected for that position. It’s kind of an insult if they are not even considered. Civilians don’t even know how to wear her uniform, and yet as Surgeon General they hold one of the highest military ranks in the land. Please submit this comment.

    • Are you upset because he is a male and not the current female? Perhaps because he is a physician and not a nurse? Perhaps because he is black? No current woman SG is black. Perhaps because he has no more military training than Dr. Murthy? No, the real reason you don’t like him is because Trump picked him. Elections have their consequences. Suck it up.

    • Mr. Adams is perfectly qualified, particularly given the opioid epidemic, which is the main health issue confronting the country right now. Also, it appears that he’s one of the very few leaders who is actually able to transcend the political madness and work with people at all levels on both sides of the aisle. I have worked with many military “leaders” who can suit up and serve up a “sir sandwich” when needed, but require “command and control” direction at all times before they can lift a pinky finger.

  • Umm..isn’t this the same cat who was the health commissioner in IN during the HIV epidemic there, then took forever to follow the CDC recommendations for the needle exchange program?? IDK about this dude. Besides, I’m Leary of anyone who says that they had a great meeting with the Cheeto.

  • I see in this article Dr. Adams states, “hiv was being transmitted by people injecting prescription painkillers”. Could he elaborate on that? Was it misuse of legitimate pain medication or was it actually abuse of illegal opioids, such as illegal heroin or illegal fentynal?

    What these Government agencies are doing is fighting chronic pain disease patients. We use legitimate prescription medications for a disease. The crisis is that they are targeting CHRONIC PAIN PATIENTS. Chronic pain is now the epidemic. We are being caterogized and descriminated against for a medication we require to reduce our pain. No other chronic disease patient is targeted for their use of a prescription medication.
    What about the good of opioid medications. They are lifesaving medications for millions of Americans who live in constant, debilitating, chronic pain.
    Though the number of prescribed opioids are down, the overdose deaths are “reportedly, at an all time high”. So this system is not working.
    When a death does occur, there is no specific testing as to what opioid drugs attibuted to the death. Whether there were other drugs or alcohol in the system, or whether the specific “medication” was for that individual, was it illegally manufactured heroin, fentynal or carfentynal.
    The misuse of medication by legitimate chronic pain disease patients is .02-.6 %. It is use of illegal opioids and misuse of legal opioid medications that lead to abuse by citizens.
    The FDA, DEA, CDC and all other Government agencies need to go after the illegal fentynal and heroin producers and manufacturers, also, methamphetamine, cocaine and all other illegal drugs. Addicts will always have the illegal drugs and find a way to get them.
    Why is it that our physicians are no longer able to Doctor us? Why is it that these agencies can now Doctor us and practice medicine without a medical license? They are policing our physicians. I believe it is up to our physicians to treat us adequately and humanely with medication, so many of us desperately need, for our disease.
    This targeting is wrong! It is discrimination against legitimate chronic pain disease patients who use our MEDICATION responsibly.
    Addicts will find and use the illegal drugs of their choice. We pain disease patients are not addicts, we are PATIENTS, with an incurable disease. Medications are readily available to us for our conditions, that happens to fall into the same category as the illegal drugs.

    • Thank you. Great post.
      There is no biological marker for pain. Rather than a pain meter, they depend on self report. And pain meds are only temporary relief. If they don’t fix the “source” of the pain, ….the pt will be back. If the pt is poor, disheveled, or verbally challenged, they are accused of recreation use. “You are just trying to get high”.

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