The 20th Surgeon General of the United States
After growing up poor and Black in a Southern rural community, Jerome Adams went on to lead the 6,000 person U.S. Public Health Service as “America’s Doctor” during a worldwide pandemic. As Surgeon General, he brought a passionate commitment to fighting issues that his own family and community experienced, including limited healthcare access, chronic disease, substance use disorder and ensuing stigma, tobacco addiction, maternal health, mental illness and the opioid epidemic. Dr. Adams’ talks merge his expertise at the forefront of national and global health policy with his own personal experiences: growing up with life-threatening asthma, as a brother to someone with substance use disorder, and as someone navigating politics to tirelessly champion the health of the vulnerable and voiceless during times of crisis. Read More >
Ending the Stigma of Substance Use Disorder
COVID-19 created a perfect storm that preyed upon our nation’s most vulnerable communities: people of color, rural populations, and those already suffering from epidemics of obesity, asthma, substance use disorder, smoking, and conditions such as poor maternal health that are prevalent in low-income zip codes. COVID has cast a spotlight on a long history of systemic health inequities in America—disparities and underlying conditions that were Dr. Adams’ focus as Surgeon General. Today, these disparities still remain. But according to Dr. Adams, there is also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to right the wrongs of the past. Noting that great advancements in health policy often come during or after times of war (antibiotic use after WWI, health care coverage after WWII, or trauma care after the Gulf War), Dr. Adams sees an opportunity in a post-COVID world to talk about the social determinants of health and health equity in a way that truly resonates with the public, moves from awareness to action, and drives real and lasting change.
In far too many cases, businesses are pitted against health. That’s why Jerome Adams was the first Surgeon General to actively engage businesses to become change-makers and forces for health in their communities. In this talk for corporate stakeholders, Dr. Adams explains why communities that are unhealthy don’t just see individuals with poor health—they see businesses with poor economic health, more absenteeism, lower productivity, increased workplace accidents, increased turnover and trouble recruiting a healthy workforce. In this informative talk drawn from his landmark Surgeon General Report, Dr. Adams shares examples from 40 companies that elevated community health, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it benefits their bottom line.
In the healthcare world, we’ve seen that patients that are taken care of by people who look like them and who come from their backgrounds have better health outcomes. According to Dr. Adams, the same is true in any workplace. Data, statistics and studies show that when an organization champions diversity, equity and inclusion, they expand their stakeholder base, are more relevant and innovative, and have more engaged and productive employees. In this engaging talk, 20th Surgeon General Jerome Adams speaks to becoming better corporate citizens by building a culture of belonging and connecting more closely to the community in ways that are a “win-win” for all.
One of millions of American families affected by substance use disorder, Dr. Jerome Adams has seen his own family not only struggle with the disease, but suffer the crippling stigma attached to it. His own younger brother’s case, like so many others, started with untreated depression that led to opioid pain reliever misuse and then, to years of cycling in and out of jail. Sharing his family’s painful and heart-felt story, Dr. Adams asserts that the first step to battling substance use disorder is to understand that it is a chronic, but treatable, brain disease that should be as free of stigma as any other chronic health condition. Blending a Surgeon General’s public health expertise with a candid account of his family’s own story of heartbreak and hope, Dr. Adams calls on all of us to change society’s views and break down the barriers that prevent sufferers and their families from speaking out and seeking help.
Dr. Jerome Adams grew up in rural Mechanicsville, Maryland, on one of the many tobacco farms that once drove the local economy of his impoverished hometown. Despite chronic asthma that caused him to miss school, he was an exceptional student, winning awards and accolades for science, math, technology and engineering. His hard work landed him a college scholarship to University of Maryland, where he earned dual bachelor degrees in biochemistry and biopsychology, also studying abroad in Zimbabwe and the Netherlands. Remembered as a kid from a small town who held his own competing with students from around the world, it was his compassion for others and concern over the injustice of health care disparities that inspired him to become a doctor. Years later, as Surgeon General, “America’s Doctor,” he fought to give a voice to communities that often go unheard. In this inspiring speech, Dr. Adams talks about the factors that drove his success—from his own mindset to individual teachers and a system of supports that helped him rise out of poverty so that he could raise up others.
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