A success story, sprung from So. Md.
This is one of those “local kid makes good” moments that all of Southern Maryland can embrace.
Dr. Jerome Adams, a 1992 graduate of Chopticon High School who grew up in the Mechanicsville area, has been confirmed as the new surgeon general of the United States. He was nominated by President Trump on June 29 to become the nation’s top doctor. And while the wheels of the federal government often turn slowly, Adams’ confirmation was relatively swift. He sat before the U.S. Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee last Tuesday, then had his nomination confirmed by the full Senate on Thursday.
Adams will now be sworn in as the 20th surgeon general in U.S. history. And he’s one of ours.
Adams, 42, is a physician specializing in anesthesiology, most recently living in Indiana. He was appointed by then-governor Mike Pence in 2014 as Indiana’s state health commissioner. In January, he was reappointed by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb to the same position. Of course, that connection with the current vice president — and Adams’ stellar performance leading Indiana’s efforts to battle a huge HIV outbreak in that state related to injected drug use — got the attention of the White House, so Adams’ nomination was secure.
So what exactly does the surgeon general do? Everybody has seen warnings from the federal agency on the side of a pack of cigarettes, but what are the functions of the office? Think of the position as the chief health officer for the nation. Adams is now the head of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. This makes him the leading spokesperson on all matters of public health in the federal government.
Adams was born in New Jersey while his father was in the military, but the family was back in St. Mary’s by 1979. Adams attended White Marsh Elementary School and Margaret Brent Middle School before heading to Chopticon.
While a child, some health problems may have tilted him toward a career in medicine. Diagnosed with asthma, and being hospitalized 22 times during one year, young Jerome saw other children suffering. His father said that seemed to inspire him to improve the world around him.
Adams finished in the top 5 percent of his class at Chopticon. He was voted most likely to succeed by his classmates — and even sang a song at commencement. Thanks in part to a scholarship aimed at minority students interested in the sciences, he earned bachelor’s degrees in both biochemistry and biopsychology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. During his undergraduate days, he also studied in the Netherlands and in Zimbabwe. In the African nation, he participated in research projects, including one on the Ebola virus. He got his master’s degree in public health at the University of California, then completed his residency at Indiana University’s School of Medicine.
He was poised for success in the private sector, and now begins a four-year term as the nation’s chief doctor.
“This set a very nice example for the county, black and white, to see someone from here, who went to public schools in the county, to be selected for such a high office in the government,” the new surgeon general’s uncle, Rod Adams, said after the initial nomination. “This young man has made the county proud.”
Unquestionably. And here’s hoping that Southern Maryland will see plenty of Dr. Jerome Adams. His professional opinions will be invaluable to and welcomed by public health officials here, especially as the fight against opioid misuse continues. And on a personal level, his presence will show young people that they can go as far as their dreams can carry them.