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The Journal Gazette

  • Courtesy photo Surgeon General nominee Dr. Jerome Adams is flanked by Indiana Sens. Joe Donnelly, left, and Todd Young. Adams' confirmation hearing as surgeon general took place Tuesday.

Thursday, August 03, 2017 1:00 am


Doctor's orders: Hoosier in position to do much good as surgeon general

The country will be well served if Jerome Adams proves as effective as U.S. surgeon general as he's been as Indiana's state health commissioner.

At his confirmation hearing Tuesday, Adams pledged to continue to put science before politics in his new job.

“I always want to lead with science,” Adams said, according to an Indianapolis Star account of his testimony. He added, “I also want to listen to what stakeholders are saying and what patients are saying.”

That's the kind of common-sense approach the state's health community has come to expect from Adams since he took the reins at the Indiana State Department of Health in 2014. He quickly proved a thoughtful and decisive leader as he dealt with the emerging opioid crisis and chipped away at Indiana's chronic health problems. 

Still a practicing anesthesiologist, Adams talked with Hoosiers about our state's problems with the kind of frankness good physicians bring to difficult discussions with their patients. He challenged individuals as well as the health care establishment to do more about the state's high rates of obesity and smoking, exposure to lead and other pollutants, and high infant mortality rate. He helped overcome the state's reluctance to institute needle-exchange programs to reduce transmission of HIV and hepatitis C among intravenous drug users. An African-American, Adams confronted audiences with the uncomfortable truth that blacks and rural whites aren't always receiving the level of health care that white, middle-class Hoosiers do.

After what was mainly a cordial Senate hearing, Adams' confirmation is all but assured.

The position of surgeon general is not a guarantee of influence over national policy. Some who've held the job have been relegated to obscurity or even hounded out of office for overzealous stances.

But Adams has managed to avoid falling into ideological battles as he's confronted tough issues in Indiana. Anyone who has the enthusiastic backing of both Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly and Republican U.S. Sen. Todd Young has something going for them.

Though on a far grander scale, Adams will be dealing with roughly the same kinds of challenges he faced in Indiana – including the opioid epidemic. He has the skills and experience to build bipartisan support for factual, rational approaches to improving the nation's health.