Jerome M. Adams graduation message

Congratulations to 2020 public health graduates: a message from the U.S. Surgeon General

Jerome M. Adams graduation message

Congratulations to 2020 public health graduates: a message from the U.S. Surgeon General

Public health graduates need to persevere

The profession of public health has been launched into the limelight due to the current Novel Coronavirus pandemic hitting the U.S. this year. As of today, the total cases have leaped over 1.5 million with 20,522 new cases to-date (CDC, 2020). The community of public health has sprung into action through contract tracing, data collection, education, and testing. Unfortunately, public health COVID-19 prevention strategies, such as shelter-at-home and social distancing interventions, has put a monkey wrench in celebratory activities such as graduation, leaving many newly graduated future public health professionals disappointed and wondering what is next.

The U.S. Surgeon General, VADM Jerome M. Adams, M.D., M.P.H., wanted to send a word of encouragement to all new public health graduates, emphasizing this is an especially challenging time to enter a career in public health. However, he stresses, it has never been so critical as now to sustain and grow our public health workforce to lead the fight against infectious diseases, such as COVID-19.

"...knowledge, skills, and commitment to the health of our citizens have never had a greater value."

He wanted students to know their knowledge, skills, and commitment to the health of our citizens have never had a greater value. In Dr. Adam's exuberant call-to-action, he emphasizes it is time to shine and be heard! He explains students will soon discover their new careers in public health will have an ever-evolving path of new challenges and opportunities that will most likely extend far beyond what they ever imagined for themselves. The community of public health, along with Dr. Adams, can't wait to see what legacy public health students imprint on the world as they lead us all forward. Congratulations to all the new public health practitioners of 2020!  

Hello, I'm United States Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams. Though this may seem like an especially challenging time to enter the public health workforce, I want you to know that you've chosen a profession which more than ever is playing a critical role in the lives of our entire planet. There's never been such a spotlight on the important work of Public Health and your knowledge, skills, commitment and compassion have never been of greater value.

Now is your time to shine and to be heard, so I hope you've been working on your Twitter profiles. In all seriousness though, you've all chosen areas of focus you'll discover your career has many unique chapters and opportunities that extend far beyond what you've imagined for yourself. I started out with a focus on chronic disease prevention and never imagined my public health legacy would revolve around HIV, ebola, zika and now COVID-19. Let that be a lesson to you all – there's no escaping infectious diseases. No matter your area, we all have a role to play in promoting good prevention practices and especially promoting vaccinations.

Now I'd like to leave you all with a few pieces of advice. First, dare to be innovators and disruptors. A novel coronavirus has shown us that it's time for new thinking, and never before have graduates entered their careers with so much opportunity to think outside the box and to shape the future of public health. Second, strive to really get to know people, and above all to be good people. All of us in public health can get a little preachy and judgmental on occasion and forget that our experiences and priorities aren't always the same as those of the people we're trying to engage.

My favorite saying is that people need to know you care before they care what you know, so whenever you're struggling to connect with or convince your audience, remember it's usually due to a lack of trust versus a lack of knowledge transfer. And finally, practice good self-care. One of my biggest laments having lived through multiple crises is the toll I've seen these responses take on the responders, but just as a car can't go as far or as fast on a flat tire, you and your colleagues can't give your best effort if you are mentally, physically and spiritually running on all cylinders.

So from the Surgeon General and nation's doctor to the newest members of our National Health Army, I want you to know I couldn't be more proud of all of you. Congratulations class of 2020.