What initially strikes people about Christopher Adams, MD, FACP, FACR, is his passion for fairness. In 2015, he told readers of The Rheumatologist, “Patients often feel powerless to fight the system and advocate for themselves, and many of my patients felt they lacked a mechanism for addressing their concerns. That’s where we come in.”
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Dr. Adams is dedicated to leveling the playing field for patients. He says, “Rheumatologists are advocates for arthritis patients because we see firsthand the medical, psychological and social destructiveness of the illnesses we treat.”
As the incoming chair of the ACR’s Affiliate Society Council, Dr. Adams is now in a position to help even more patients. He plans to help state societies develop tools to encourage legislators and insurance companies to enact legislation and policies that empower rheumatologists and other healthcare professionals to better care for their patients.
Many Sides of Medicine
Throughout his career, Dr. Adams has experienced many different sides of medicine, which encouraged him to embrace a patient advocacy role. Between 1977 and 1991, he served in the U.S. Air Force and then the Army Reserves, graduating medical school in 1981 from the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB). He completed his residency and internship in 1984 at Wilford Hall USAF Medical Center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. As a military officer and a physician specializing in internal medicine, he wore many hats—overseeing an emergency department and immunizations clinic, serving as volunteer clinical faculty at the University of California-Davis in the 1980s and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in the 1990s. Then he moved on to small specialty and large multispecialty group practices.
Currently, he is the chief of rheumatology at the East Alabama Rheumatology Center, which is part of the East Alabama Medical Center in Auburn-Opelika, Ala., and also a guest lecturer and clinical professor at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Auburn, Ala. Over the past decade, he has also served as the governmental affairs and managed care liaison for the Alabama Society for Rheumatic Diseases (ASRD).
“What compels me to get involved in advocacy is making sure that patients get a fair shake,” says Dr. Adams, adding that he wants to help state medical societies address targeted health issues, such as the high cost of biologic drugs. “What’s happening in the world of healthcare is so lopsided. Patients don’t have the background to fully understand what some of the healthcare delivery policies are doing to them.”