EVMS alumna leads Navy’s tropical medicine program
As a child in Liberia, Lt. Cmdr. Nehkonti Adams, MD (MD ’08), remembers hearing women in labor on the first floor of her family’s home where her mother and father ran a medical practice. Despite that environment, Dr. Adams had no interest in medicine — she wanted to be to be a flight attendant and travel.
Her family came to the United States when she was 11. After high school, she opted to travel by joining the U.S. Navy. While deployed to West Africa and South America, Dr. Adams saw nurses helping refugees in camps and realized what she had escaped by leaving Liberia. She decided that she, too, wanted to help displaced people through medicine.
After switching from active duty to reserve status, she earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Minnesota and her medical degree at EVMS. Then it was back to active duty for a residency and infectious diseases fellowship at San Diego Naval Medical Center. Her next role was medical officer-in-charge of a Navy medical research unit in Ghana.
Today, Dr. Adams directs the U.S. Military Tropical Medicine Program at the Navy Medicine Professional Development Center in Bethesda, Maryland. With a focus on global health, the program instructs military doctors, nurses and PAs in how to identify tropical disease cases and how to manage them.
“Everyone is trained in silos in their own countries,” Dr. Adams says. “But if we’re involved in disaster response overseas, we’re going to be working with other groups — another government, other military organizations. That’s difficult to coordinate. So we ask how can we be helpful in that global community?”
She also travels to military bases around the world to bring a short version of the courses to those who can’t make it to Maryland.
“That’s my favorite part of the job,” she says. “I realize those people in the field are going to need that information today. It’s the ultimate instant gratification.”
“EVMS encouraged us to be engaged with our community, be it local or global.”– Lt. Cmdr. Nehkonti Adams, MD (MD ‘08)
In her spare time, Dr. Adams makes soaps under the name District Suds, hosts classes and sells her products at farmer’s markets. Last spring, she returned to EVMS to speak to undergraduates at Campus Visitation Day — the same event that introduced her to the school years ago.
“I just had a wonderful time,” Dr. Adams says of her years at EVMS. “The environment was very nurturing. And EVMS encouraged us to be engaged with our community, be it local or global. That has stayed with me throughout my career.”