Jerome Adams, former United States surgeon general, visited with leaders and students at the University of Missouri School of Medicine on Feb. 28 to discuss the importance of understanding health inequities.
Medical students gathered at the Patient-Centered Care Learning Center while Springfield Clinical Campus students joined virtually. Adams requested to meet with the medical students while visiting the University of Missouri as the keynote speaker for a Black History Month event sponsored in part by the School of Medicine.
Adams said understanding how to treat a sick patient is not enough — physicians must understand and seek to change underlying community determinants of health. Adams also spoke of his experience as the second Black American to serve as U.S. surgeon general and the vital need for diverse representation in health care.
“I never dreamed I could be surgeon general of the United States, I never dreamed I could be a doctor,” said Adams, who served from 2017-21. “It wasn’t because I wasn’t smart enough. … I just never met a Black doctor in my life. There’s a saying, ‘If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.’”
Adams is currently a practicing anesthesiologist, professor, Presidential Fellow and executive director of health equity initiatives at Purdue University.
Students had the opportunity to ask questions and seek advice for their own journeys in medicine, and Adams stressed the importance of representation and mentorship.
“You need mentors and sponsors, but you also need to understand you can be mentors and sponsors. … I want you to remember that there are lots of little kids out there who couldn’t even dream of being a medical student at Mizzou,” Adams said. “That’s why I enjoy the opportunity to come and talk with you all and share my journey today.”