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Why Trump’s Surgeon General Nominee Is Winning Rare Bipartisan Praise

July 6, 2017, 8:14 PM UTC

Donald Trump’s cabinet, judicial, and other nominees haven’t generally been met with universal political enthusiasm. But the president’s choice for Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams, is garnering praise for his work on the opioid epidemic and HIV from across the political spectrum.

Adams is an anesthesiologist who’s known for his previous work on substance abuse. He would replace Barack Obama-appointed Dr. Vivek Murthy if confirmed as Surgeon General. Former Indiana Governor (and current Vice President) Mike Pence appointed Adams to lead the Hoosier State’s health department in 2014. Since then, he garnered a reputation as a public health professional who looked to community models for fighting addiction and other scourges.

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Adams was once a critic of clean needle exchange programs meant to curb the spread of infectious diseases, but he convinced a skeptical Pence to allow such efforts to go forward in the wake of an HIV outbreak propagated by needle-sharing by drug users. Pence eventually signed a law to legalize such needle exchanges in Indiana counties.

That history and rapport with a major government official has patient advocates hopeful that, if confirmed, Adams could push the Trump administration towards prudent public health policy, including on the opioid crisis. President Trump has previously stated that confronting the opioid epidemic is one of his main health care goals, although there have been some mixed messages considering the administration’s proposed NIH cuts, Obamacare rollbacks, and drug-related criminal justice policy.

Still, Adams is being lauded by a number of prominent health care trade organizations and patient groups as having the correct combination of skills to shape public health initiatives. And, if confirmed, he would become the second major Indiana health official to join the Trump administration, behind Seema Verma, who now leads the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.