In an abrupt Trump administration shakeup, Videk Murthy, the U.S. Surgeon General appointed by former President Obama in 2014 was removed from his post last Friday, but the result was the interim installation of Deputy Surgeon General, Rear Adm. Sylvia Trent-Adams into the position.
She becomes the fourth African-American — and third Black woman — to serve in the position of Surgeon General, following Joycelyn Elders, David Satcher and Regina Benjamin. She is also the first Black nurse to hold the job. But she comes with an impressive background worth knowing about.
- She is a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Public Health Service. Trent-Adams grew up on a farm in Concord, Va., and started out as a candy striper at a local hospital, delivering mail to patients. That got her interested in a nursing career. She started with the USPHS in 1992 after serving in the Army as a nurse officer, according to the Health and Human Services website. She had also worked as a cancer research nurse at the University of Maryland. From November 2013 through May 2016, she served as the Chief Nurse Officer of the USPHS.
- Her resume is broad and full of accomplishments. She attended Hampton University on an ROTC scholarship, later got her masters degree from the University of Maryland, Baltimore and her doctorate from University of Maryland, Baltimore County. After her Army tenure ended she joined the Commissioned Corps of the USPHS. She has also been deputy associate administrator in the HIV/AIDS Bureau of the Department of Health and Human Services, helping to manage the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program. In addition, she has served as guest lecturer at the University of Maryland and Hampton University, and as the Chair of the Federal Public Health Nurse Leadership Council, and the Federal Nursing Service Council.
- She was influenced by how she saw patients were being treated. Little was known about HIV/AIDS early in Trent-Adams career and she recalled a man who had the disease being mistreated by a hospital employee who slid a tray of food across the floor to him instead of handing it to him. “No one deserves to be treated like that,” she told the Appomattox Times-Virginian. “I have had very interesting assignments in my career. They have not always been pleasant, but I have learned from them.”
- She is a supporter of the Affordable Care Act. Pertaining to the field of nursing, Trent-Adams has said it puts nurses in a position to have an impact that they had not had prior to the passage of the policy. “We can be involved in many ways: clinically, with creating policy, at the bedside, and creating innovative strategies,” she said in a 2014 interview with the American Journal of Nursing. “Nurses bring common sense to solving problems, which has not been recognized enough. Nurses spend more time with the patient than any other health care provider.”