Public Health For All, A Conversation About Present Health Issues: Dr. Jerome Adams, US Surgeon General


This past Tuesday, Agnes Scott hosted the US Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams for an informal lecture about health equity in the Frannie. The talk was marketed as a conversation being held between the community and Dr. Adams.

From the beginning of the talk, Dr. Adams made a point of trying to bring forth his own personal experiences, speaking about his brother’s addiction to opioids and the struggle it has placed on his family. It was interesting for someone in such a powerful position to share such personal and deep stories, especially when many of us feel such shame when speaking about issues like addiction.

Another interesting piece of the talk was how Dr. Adams made a point to emphasize the distinction we make in health, such as mental and oral health, when it is all just health. I think this was very powerful. By removing these from the general health category, it has almost made a statement saying these are not as important. Oral health is not even included in normal health insurance, instead, it is something extra you have to pay for, making it a luxury item only some can afford when oral health is extremely important for the body’s general well being. He also tied the health of the individual to the health of the community and society.

Jerome Adams, M.D, 20th U.S. Surgeon General, visited the NIH on January 18, 2018. Image from: Flickr

Healthy communities suffer less from crime, violence, and have greater stability. This helps them support a more stable economy. In his view, this was a huge point for public health to rely on for public support. He saw public health as an issue that could rally all sides of the political spectrum because it positively affects the economy, something we can all agree on. While I do think this is a nice idea on how to create more health equity, I think it is slightly short-sighted. I think it ignores the racism involved in health inequality and also doesn’t touch on the issue of funding public health, which is very political.

I did appreciate him trying to make it a more accessible concept through a more centrist view. He was appointed by Donald Trump, but surprisingly I didn’t find him to be overly on one side of the political spectrum. He appealed to the middle ground, which is both a strength and a weakness. But in his position, I do think it is probably the best way for him to accomplish anything with how difficult the present political climate is.

Dr. Adams and his children with Mike Pence. Image from: Wikimedia Commons

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stay for questions, which was supposed to be the “conversation” point of the talk, but throughout the lecture, he did take questions and engaged with the audience. I wished I could have seen more what the conversation would have looked like, especially with his view leaning a bit differently than the typical Agnes side. Because while I love the culture of Agnes, I do think we can get stuck in a more left point of view and it is important to hear a variety of opinions. So I did a appreciate hearing a centrist point of view. I think having your beliefs challenge makes them stronger. If you are able to effectively explain and defend your own beliefs, it makes others listen more and also gives you more confidence.