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Trump nominates Indiana health commissioner for surgeon general

June 29, 2017
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Indiana Health Commissioner Dr. Jerome Adams (IBJ file photo)

Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Jerome Adams was nominated Thursday by President Donald Trump to become surgeon general.

The White House said it had sent Adams’ nomination to the Senate for confirmation, but did not comment on how or why it selected Adams. He was appointed state health commissioner in October 2014 by then-Gov. Mike Pence, who is now Trump's vice president.

Adams, 42, an anesthesiologist, acknowledged the nomination with a tweet: “Truly honored at nomination by @realDonaldTrump for Surgeon General. Looking forward to working to improve health in US. #greathealth”

If confirmed, Adams would succeed Dr. Vivek Murthy, who was fired by Trump earlier this year.

“Dr. Jerome Adams is a dedicated champion for overall health and wellness, and genuinely cares about citizens in every corner of our state," Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said in a written statement. "I’m delighted President Trump seeks to bring another Hoosier to Washington, D.C.”

Adams has spent his terms in Indiana trying to curb the state’s opioid epidemic, high infant mortality rate, high rate of smoking, obesity and HIV epidemic. At an IBJ panel discussion in September, he talked about the wide range of health challenges the state faces, including finding enough naloxone to treat opioid overdoses.

“We've increased the availability of naloxone, we've put out acute pain prescribing guidelines, we've done a lot of things to try to tackle this epidemic,” Adams said. “But we aren't there yet and it's actually running away from us as fast as we try to catch up to it because now we're talking about questions of who gets hepatitis drugs, we're looking at carfentanil added to heroin that caused us to have 14 overdoses in eight hours in southern Indiana a few weeks ago and they ran out of Narcan in the entire southern half of the state.”

A year earlier, as an HIV outbreak fueled by intravenous drug use was ravaging southern Indiana, Adams admitted that the state was caught a bit unaware, but was trying to respond.

“We don’t have all the answers, but we are learning as we go,” he wrote in a news release. “We are building a model for prevention and response should this type of outbreak happen in other communities in the U.S. I would like nothing better than to tell you this unprecedented HIV epidemic will never happen again anywhere else. But I can’t do that. What I can do is encourage everyone to try to stop the at-risk behaviors that contributed to our current situation in Scott County.

Adams earned a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and a bachelor's in biopsychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He earned his medical degree from the Indiana University School of Medicine, and his master's degree in public health at the University of California, Berkeley.

 Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told The Associated Press that Adams "has extensive experience in health care and has worked on the front lines of public health in Indiana, and his status as a working physician will serve him well in leading our nation's health promotion and disease prevention efforts."

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