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U.S. Surgeon General delivers grand rounds, urges future doctors to “use your voice.” E cigarettes, opioids, overall declining health a concern

Date: July 31st, 2019 in External News, IN THE NEWS, JABSOM News, MINORITY, Native Hawaiian Health, OB-GYN, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, Rural, Student Life, UH Manoa    Print or PDF

Pictured: Round Table meeting of health leaders and advocates whose work focuses on US Pacific Islander health at JABSOM with the US Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, MD, MPH. Deborah Manog Dimaya photo.

“We’re literally a less safe country now because we’re not healthy,” said Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, MD, MPH, the U.S. Surgeon General, in a speech at JABSOM.

By Tina Shelton and Deborah Manog Dimaya

The United States Surgeon General spoke to Hawaii’s future physicians today as though he was speaking to his colleagues, instead of medical students at the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM). “Use your voice,” he urged them, emphasizing that doctors are among the most trusted people in America.

Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, MD, MPH zeroed in right away on one local problem that could use a voice — the dangerous spike in the use of e cigarettes by high schoolers. “Hawaii is the second-highest state in the country of youth using e cigarettes. One pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. We have a new generation of youth becoming slaves to nicotine,” said Dr. Adams.

Dr. Adams is also concerned about the normalization of marijuana. “CBD oil is not regulated. You might think you’re getting this, but maybe you’re getting a little of the oil and the rest is, I don’t know what,” said Dr. Adams.

Vice Admiral Jerome Adams MD, MPH, the U.S. Surgeon General.

The attention of those filling the 150-seat medical school auditorium was fixed on him the entire time the Vice Admiral spoke, especially when he said of the nation, “Our poor health isn’t just a matter of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. We’re literally a less safe country now because we’re not healthy. Oral health is one of the reasons soldiers get sent home from deployment.”

He went on, his words seemingly asking those in the room to look at themselves. “People don’t prioritize health. How many times have you skipped a workout or skipped a meal for work? Then we turn around and look at patients and say, ‘what’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you prioritizing your health?'”

First, understand that as a physician you must take care of your own health, he said, and then you can help your communities understand how vital health is. “You can’t get an income, you can’t focus and be efficient when you’re tired or unhealthy,” he told the students. “Communities that invest in health see job growth, greater productivity, less absenteeism. We need to invest in clean air laws … in the things that invest in community health,” said Dr. Adams.

Dr. Adams, the 20th surgeon general in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, is a strong advocate for preventive care. He knows the ins and outs of substance abuse and the vicious toll it takes on individuals and families. His brother has struggled with addiction. Dr. Adams said that just walking around Waikiki during his brief Hawaii stay he could see signs of opioid addiction, and he urged everyone in health care to have a supply of the overdose antidote Naloxone handy.

Tweets by the U.S. Surgeon General about JABSOM
Dr. Adams’ office clearly was prepared for today’s visit and shared JABSOM pride throughout the nation on his “@Surgeon_General” social media account:

#DYK that @uhmed is the only accredited med school in the US with a clinical department devoted to improving the health of an indigenous people? Culturally competent care is a critical part of medicine. Glad to see the great work to uplift health for indigenous populations.

Mahalo, @uhmed for having me at your grand rounds this morning! I encourage all of the students and faculty to continue to be the game-changers and innovators in the medical field!

After his talk, Dr. Adams listened to community health advocates in a Round Table Discussion involving JABSOM and other University of Hawaii faculty who are active in health here and throughout the Pacific Region, including the Pacific Islands Primary Care Association, Pacific Island Health Officers Association, Kokua Kalihi Valley Community Health Center and We Are Oceania.

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