As we reflect on the progress of our careers in medicine, and on the progress of the Medical Profession as a whole, it is wholly appropriate from time to time that we give due appreciation to those physicians who have gone above and beyond the call of duty. Those individuals who have had an outside influence on what we do. Think of the giants of American medicine: Osler, the great diagnostician; the Mayo brothers, who carried Surgery into the modern era; Salk; the brilliant virologist who conquered Polio; DeBakey, the daring heart transplant surgeon. Now think of the physicians who inspired you personally: your Residency Directors perhaps, some mentor along the way, perhaps an old Family Doctor who inspired you to go into Medicine way back when you were a child.
Now I’d like to suggest you consider a doctor whom you may never have heard of, Jerome Adams, MD. Dr Adams had a Horatio Alger beginning, his father a farmer, but he had high ambitions, great intelligence, and dogged determination. He secured critical scholarships to college and medical school, then took a Residency in Anesthesiology in Indiana. So far, a fairly routine career. For most of us, it was time to settle into a prescribed career, get a job, pay off debts, buy a house. But for Dr Adams, a man with infectious energy, enthusiasm, even charisma according to some who know him; he was just getting started.
Sure he worked as an anesthesiologist, but then he also: obtained a Masters in Public Health at UC Berkeley, secured leadership positions at the Indiana State Medical Society, the Indiana Society of Anesthesiologists, and the AMA. Here was a man determined to make a difference. As it happened, an opening came about as the Indiana Health Commissioner, and Dr Adams, who had never before been a political animal, determined to take a very public role in life, while being fiercely determined to serve the public health using only the proven science.
Thus, when Indiana experienced an epidemic of contaminated-needle-caused HIV and Hepatitis C, he pushed for and got money from the state legislature for a needle exchange program. Yes, even in deeply conservative (both politically and culturally) Indiana, he managed to convince the skeptics to go with the science and fund the right program to get the job done. Among his other initiatives, in a state with shamefully high infant mortality rate, was a state-funded comprehensive “Labor ofCredi Love” initiative, with a hotline women can call for help at all stages of pre pregnancy or pregnancy. Michigan, and especially Saginaw County could use such a program.
At this point let me back up and say that I can easily point to at least a dozen Saginaw County Medical Society physicians who have made commitments to our profession and to the public health at least as deep and long-lasting as those of Dr Adams. They serve selflessly and often with no recognition. At some point you give them a word of thanks. I wish I could name them all here, but sadly, do not have the time or space. Our task is to discuss Dr Adams, and so we shall.
In 2017, despite his lack of political credentials, and the baggage of his controversial use of evidence-based approaches to public health problems, Dr Adams’ talents and abilities were so respected on the state and national level that he was appointed and confirmed as the 20th United States Surgeon General. This made him instantly the most notable physician in the country, and his “Surgeon General’s” report was eagerly anticipated in government and medical circles. What disease, what public health issue would he focus on? Previous Surgeon Generals, as described previously, had focused on tobacco, sex education, drug use, minority health, etc. What would Dr. Adams focus on?
Well, in his three years as Surgeon General, Dr Adams has not issued a formal report, but he has focused, with laser precision, on a serious problem in America, as is well known to those who follow his speeches, seminars, and daily tweets to numerous followers. Dr Adams believes, and this is ironic given recent events, that you cannot have a healthy America without having a prosperous America; but that the converse is also true…you cannot have a prosperous America without having a healthy America.
And we have we found that out…in spades. We can have NO prosperity, at all, without good health.
Actually, such thoughts have long been central to the efforts of our own THRIVE community which has been working diligently on bringing together the healthcare community with the business community to improve the economic and physical vitality of our region, and which has secured a promise from the very same Jerome Adams MD, Surgeon General of the United States, to visit with us on May 26.
Circumstances unfortunately necessitate that the visit, as is so much these days, be ‘virtual’, but you will nonetheless want to take the time to see what he has to say about our efforts. Details will be forthcoming.