Former U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams began his visit to IU’s campus Wednesday as the Kelley School of Business’ Poling Chair of Business and Government.
He arrived with a goal to create a partnership between business and medical professionals. Something, he says, will create a better future for Americans across the board.
“The best thing for a strong economy is a healthy citizenry,” Adams said.
Adams, who has an extensive background in anesthesiology preceding his roles as Surgeon General and Indiana state health commissioner, continues to practice medicine to this day. He discussed his experience with business students at IU this week.
“I get to be the Rosetta Stone; I get to translate one into the other,” Adams said about the two fields.
Adams spent much of his time as Surgeon General during the COVID-19 pandemic, which became one of his priorities in addition to addressing the opioid epidemic and national mental health crisis.
Since his departure from the role as Surgeon General under the Trump administration, Adams stayed involved in public health. He discussed how many have experienced symptoms of long Covid, particularly after repeated exposure to the disease. To protect themselves and others, Adams recommended people stay up to date on their booster shots, even if they’re feeling safer.
“If you're more than a year out from the last time you've gotten a shot, then you could be doing better,” Adams said.
At this point in the pandemic, he said, hundreds of people die in the U.S. not because they’re unvaccinated, but for some, it is because they’re under-vaccinated.
Adams also said healthcare professionals could be better at promoting existing treatment for COVID-19, such as Paxlovid which has been shown to help decrease the risk of hospitalization.
Adams also discussed the importance of increasing diversity in healthcare to correct major disparities in people’s wellbeing based on their background or where they live.
“This is very personal to me, because I never dreamed I could be a doctor much less the Surgeon General of the United States when I was younger,” Adams said. “I'd never met a black doctor in my life until I got to college.”
Adams emphasized that diversity in the healthcare industry goes far beyond racial diversity. It means including people who come from a variety of backgrounds. To Adams, this translates into better care for patients.
“If you come from the community that your patient comes from, if you speak the language that your patient comes from, if there's something about you that your patient can relate to, that allows you to be more empathetic,” Adams said.
Adams said he left the university feeling refreshed by students’ optimism about the future.
“If you talk to adults all the time, all you hear are the reasons why you can't do things,” Adams said. “But you talk to students, you realize how much hope there is, and it gives you a positive feeling that — despite all the negative news out there — things are going to be alright."