Why a U.S. Surgeon General says we should pay more attention to public health and equitable care
KIRC private chat PLUS a featured presentation with a former 'Nation's Doctor'
Hello, KIRC family!
I would like to first extend a warm welcome to all of our new subscribers. Thank you for joining our growing tribe and I appreciate you sharing your time and expertise with the KIRC family. Please consider sharing this newsletter with friends and family.
It is my honor to continue molding Keeping It REAL Caregiving into a platform and force that can serve as a change-maker and a safe space for caregivers to share and support one another.
Last week as you know, I had the honor of presenting as part of a panel at the Association of Health Care Journalists annual conference in St. Louis, Missouri.
One of the highlights of the program, was a private conversation with, followed by a group session from the 20th U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams. He served in the role from 2017 - 2021.
Dr. Adams is one of only a handful African-Americans to serve in this role, and his credentials are impressive:
He currently serves as the Executive Director of Health Equity Initiatives at Purdue University.
He attended the University of Maryland studying biochemistry, and then attended Indiana University Medical School.
Later, he earned his Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley.
His medical specialty is as an anesthesiologists, where he worked in rural Indiana.
He served as Indiana State Health Commissioner, which paved the way to serve in the prominent role of U.S. Surgeon General.
KIRC private chat
Keeping It REAL Caregiving (me) had the chance to chat with Dr. Adams for a few minutes before his presentation.
He shared that his passion for addressing inequities in health care, especially in rural, low-income, and/or communities of color which are often disenfranchised from adequate services, has been the motivation for many health issues he has championed over the years.
Seldom do I hear national level individuals in any field, start their talks by recognizing the unique challenges faced by rural communities. Thank you!
This one-on-one conversation allowed for going beyond the headlines, and getting a more authentic sense of this public health care professional.
Dr. Adams covered many topics during his presentation. I’ll showcase the points which stood out for me, especially as a journalists and caregiving advocate.
He began his talk by sharing with everyone that he is not only a leading doctor, but also a husband and father. He shared that his wife is currently battling stage 4 cancer, which means he too, is a caregiver.
He reminded us to remain vigilant against Covid-19, as there are many people whose immune systems are vulnerable, despite the recommended precautions.
Dr. Adams shared his personal and professional journey which brought him to the White House; one he said was filled with many successes but just as many hurdles.
He encouraged those facing difficult life and/or career choices to consider that it is often more important to ‘show up and be at the table - to be a voice,’ even when it means the choice may not be popular to everyone, than taking the safe and/or easy road.
“I grew up in a rural community. I had asthma and almost died. I had an attack and had to be airlifted to a hospital in Washington, D.C. to receive care. I knew about inequities and how it impacted my life. That’s what pushed me to be able to make a difference for people who don’t have the resources they need to be heard.
I never dreamed I would be Surgeon General; never dreamed I would be a doctor. You have to see it so you can believe it, and I had never met a Black doctor, despite being in the hospital most of my youth.”
Dr. Adams shared that as Surgeon General, his goal was to raise awareness of the importance of managing public health services for many of the health crisis facing our country:
High blood pressure
He pointed out, much of that work got lost in the mix as the Covid-19 pandemic and related politics took hold.
“At the end of the day, people trust their local doctors. So what we need to do is help doctors become better communicators for public health. We need to get better at providing more education.
Covid-19 forced us to reckon with the fact that risk is not equal, so our intervention needs to be equal.
I grew up in a rural community, I grew up poor; I understand what many communities face. People need to know you care before they care what you know.”
A final item Dr. Adams discussed feels almost like a wake-up call for all of us. He shared information from a recent study, showing the level of trust Americans currently have in the institutions and individuals charged with providing information and health care, is dismally low.
You can read a synopsis of that report here. There is a fee to access the full article.
“Trust in state and local health departments is at an all time low. We need people to understand the benefits of public health. We spend 90% of our health dollars on clinical care, but we ignore the social and economic behaviors which put people at risk for Covid-19, cancer, substance abuse disorders, stroke, and diabetes.
Until we can build a level of trust in communities, we will continue to have the same problems.”
It was such an honor to meet Dr. Adams and to be invited to speak at the Association of Health Care Journalists Annual Conference on behalf of KIRC.
As Dr. Adams pointed out, it is important to ‘be at the table,’ to be a voice which can raise awareness and drive change. Let’s keep this KIRC ball rolling!
Call to Action
A national journalists who attended the conference has reached out to KIRC. She would like to interview a family caregiver currently working remotely, but whose employer now wants them to return to the office.
Is this you? Would you be willing to share your story? Leave a comment here, or you can drop me a private message at email@example.com
For those of you who have supported this effort with a paid subscription - thank you! In a short two years KIRC has been able to share information, connect individuals with resources, raise awareness and put the caregiving topic ‘in the face’ of more journalists! I invite you to consider supporting the work by upgrading to a paid subscription - THANK YOU in advance!
*Call to Action - Community effort to help a New Jersey family caregiver
*KIRC joins a California statewide caregiving advocacy organization
*Countdown to American Society on Aging, 2023 conference
Until next time~