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U.S. Surgeon General inspires students
Posted on 10/23/2019
Surgeon General

“Is this how you do the floss?,” the U.S. Surgeon General asked a fidgety female in the front row, as he swung his arms from his frontside to his backside to mimic the modern dance move.


It is probably not what one might expect to hear from the Surgeon General; however, the father of three children (ages 15, 13 and 9), VADM Jerome Adams, M.D., M.P.H., knows how to connect with a teenage audience. 


Dr. Adams visited Carver Middle School as part of the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ fourth Doctors Back to School event, which aims to attract a more diverse population to the medical profession.


While he used his time to speak to the students about the dangers of vaping, smoking marijuana and drug use, he primarily focused on how possible it is for them to be where he is today. He encouraged the students to consider medicine as a viable career choice.


In a candid discussion Dr. Adams shared how his family was “dirt poor and often struggled to find enough food to eat.” These financial struggles left him feeling uncertain about his future, but because he had a penchant for math, science and reading, he earned a scholarship to college, which changed his life. 


Not knowing a black doctor, Dr. Adams entered college with the goal of becoming an engineer. However, after meeting Dr. Ben Carson, a world-renowned neurosurgeon, he realized the realm of opportunities available and decided to pursue medicine. From private practice to assistant professor of anesthesiology to Indiana State Health Commissioner to the 20th confirmed U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Adams hoped to inspire the middle school students with his success story.


In addition to Dr. Adams speaking, 14 other doctors broke into teams of two or three to speak to students in six different classrooms. They explained what they did as an anesthesiologist and how they got where they are today. Each one stressed how they were just like the students when they were in middle school. The doctors emphasized how they came from meager home situations and were unaware of the possibility of becoming a doctor. 


After discussing their journey to becoming an anesthesiologist and what their job entails, the doctors took questions from the students. The curious minds wanted to know what happens if someone wakes while still in surgery, why brain surgery requires the patient be awake, what their favorite part of the job is, what is the most stressful part and how they persevered through the numerous years of medical school. 


“This is one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. It was so gratifying to answer their insightful questions and to be able to give kids who look like me the confidence to know they too can do this career. I’m already looking forward to next year. I definitely want to do this again,” Dr. Leroy Phillips, of NYU Langone Medical Center, said.


While the numbers are improving, minorities make up less than half of all new medical students. Current student representation consists of: 7.3 percent black, 8.9 percent Hispanic and 24.6 Asian, up from 6.8, 5.4 and 20.8 in 2002, respectively.