U.S. Surgeon General Adams Holds Fireside Chat with
MSM Students and Faculty

Our nation’s 20th and sitting Surgeon General of the United States, Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, M.D., M.P.H., visited Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) on Wednesday, November 8 as part of the school’s“Fireside Chat” series.   He was joined by the nationally renowned David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D., 16th U.S. Surgeon General. Dr. Satcher is also a past president of MSM and the founder of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute.

It was a unique enhanced educational opportunity for MSM students to hear from two high ranking federal officials.  Drs. Adams and Satcher spoke openly about a variety of topics, including mental health and the opioid crisis.

“I am the Surgeon General of the United States, but my own brother is in prison right now,” said Dr. Adams. “He’s in prison because he had untreated mental health issues. He self-medicated, which led to addiction, and ultimately ended up in the criminal justice system. [Mental health] is not just something I talk about, it’s something that is very, very personal to me.”

Both surgeons general discussed unraveling stigma attached with mental health issues and encouraged those in the audience to speak up if they have been affected by mental health issues including anxiety and depression.

“We have got to come forward and get treatment. You can’t let that stigma hold you back,” said Dr. Adams. “By sharing your story to the extent that you’re comfortable, you help destigmatize the issue and help other folks be more comfortable.”

“We have to create the kind of community where people feel comfortable admitting they need help,” added Dr. Satcher.

“You also need to integrate mental health into everything that you do,” said Dr. Adams. “A person with diabetes is not going to take their medicine and treat their diabetes appropriately if they’re suffering from depression. They’re not going to take their hypertension medication if they’re suffering from anxiety.”

Dr. Adams said he intends to tackle is the opioid crisis that is gripping our nation. He notes that it will be a challenge because there are a number of layers to the problem. The Surgeon General plans to show communities what they can do take “bites out of the elephant” and reduce opioid abuse. He also acknowledged that the opioid crisis is not new to our nation and addressed why it is now receiving national attention.

“What happened during the crack cocaine epidemic was because of stigma,” said Dr. Adams. “The way you tear down stigma, is you help people realize there is no ‘us’ and ‘them.’ It’s all of us. We’re all a part of this. Folks are now starting to see that addiction can affect anybody. Not just black, but white, Hispanic, whatever. Not just poor, but the rich. Not just urban but rural.”

The two surgeons general also took the opportunity to dispense valuable advice to MSM students as they prepare for their professional careers.

“Stay the course. You need to be clear about your mission,” said Dr. Satcher. He also encouraged students to work together with others in the medical field, no matter what their area of practice, in order to provide the best healthcare possible to their patients and their community.

The Surgeon General advised students to be ready for every opportunity to make a positive first impression by practicing their elevator pitch and being prepared to deliver it any time the opportunity presents itself. He also suggested they look at ways they can help others professionally.

“Try to be better partners. Try to think in terms of how you can help other people instead of how they can help you,” said Dr. Adams. “Try to be better partners, because it is only by being better partners that we can truly achieve better health.”

About the Office of the Surgeon General
As the Nation’s Doctor, the Surgeon General provides Americans with the best scientific information available on how to improve their health and reduce the risk of illness and injury. In 2010, the Affordable Care Act designated the Surgeon General as the Chair of the National Prevention Council, which provides coordination and leadership among 20 executive departments with respect to prevention, wellness, and health promotion activities.

The Surgeon General oversees the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (USPHS), an elite group of more than 6,700 uniformed officer public health professionals working throughout the federal government whose mission is to protect, promote, and advance the health of our nation.

The Surgeon General is nominated by the President of the United States with advice and consent of the United States Senate for a four-year term of office.  The Office of the Surgeon General is part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.