Senate panel set to vote on nomination of Jerome Adams as surgeon general, other HHS positions

The Senate side of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held hearings Tuesday on the nominations of Jerome Adams as surgeon general, along with seven other HHS posts including a new position for assistant secretary for mental health and substance use.
Jerome Adams
Jerome Adams

A Senate panel seems poised to confirm Jerome Adams, M.D., as surgeon general as well as a slate of positions for the Department of Health and Human Services.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions was scheduled to go into executive session today to vote on the nominations of Adams and seven other positions within the HHS.

The panel held hearings yesterday for all the positions. Medscape reported that both Republican and Democratic senators on the panel seemed unified in their support for the entire slate, which in addition to Adams includes:

  • Brett Giroir, M.D., for assistant secretary for health.
  • Robert Kadlec, M.D., as assistant secretary for preparedness and response.
  • Elinore F. McCance-Katz, M.D., for a new position as assistant secretary for mental health and substance use.
  • Lance Robertson as assistant secretary for aging.
  • Patrick Pizzella as deputy secretary of labor.
  • Heather L. MacDougall and James J. Sullivan as members of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

During the confirmation hearing, Adams, Indiana’s state health commissioner, answered questions on gun violence, the opioid epidemic and his stance on scientific evidence to support health initiatives. His views on science seem critical in the wake of the Trump administration’s views on vaccines, which conflicted with the opinion of previous Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy.

Adams told the senators that he would put science ahead of politics if he were named the next surgeon general, USA Today reported. However, he also said he’d listen to other stakeholders and patients as well.

“I promise you that I will continue my strong and well-documented track record of reaching out to everyone, regardless of their politics, beliefs, culture or geography,” he said.

Prior to taking the health commissioner’s appointment, Adams was a staff anesthesiologist and assistant professor of anesthesia at the Indiana University School of Medicine. He also holds a master’s degree in public health.

On the issue of gun violence, Stat reported that Adams, a gun owner, tried to separate the issue from guns themselves. Although guns and gun owners aren’t necessarily a public health problem, he said the violence that results is a problem.

“I think what we have to do is separate the tool from the perpetrator. Cars are not a public health problem, car accidents are a public health problem,” he said.

He told the panel that if confirmed, his main priorities would be the opioid epidemic, wellness and community and employer engagement.