Champions of Health Care 2023: Dr. John S. Adams — Diversity and inclusion

Doctor raises money for scholarships for Black men

Photography by Olivia Ross / Dr. John S. Adams
Photography by Olivia Ross / Dr. John S. Adams

Dr. John S. Adams says he loves delivering babies.

"There's no better feeling in the world," says the obstetrician and gynecologist who has practiced for 28 years in Chattanooga. "It's still a good feeling when I do it."

Adams also is heavily involved in raising money for college scholarships for Black men from the Gamma Pi Boule Foundation of the Sigma Pi Phi fraternity. He says about 50 scholarships have been awarded over the past 10 years, with four to five of the winners even going onto medical school and two having graduated.

Adams is a 2023 Champion of Health Care in diversity and inclusion.

The fraternity, first established in 1904, includes successful Black men such as physicians, lawyers, judges, educators and athletes. Adams says he was asked to join in 2008, with the foundation established in 2013, of which he became president in 2020.

The 62-year-old physician leads the foundation's annual fundraising campaign, with the bulk of the money going to scholarships to Black male high school students in Hamilton County who've been accepted into four-year universities.

"I've read three or four books on how to become a good fundraiser and keep donors coming back every year," Adams says.

He says the scholarships are aimed at Black men because they are "the ones struggling the most, the ones who are lost, committing crimes, winding up hurt or in jail. These are the guys who need the most help, and that's why we've chosen them."

Applications are sent out to several public and private schools annually, Adams says. Faculty members may offer letters of support but the foundation also looks at community service, grades, test scores and a personal statement, he says.

"A lot of these guys have overcome hardships in their journeys," the physician says. "We factor those hardships into our decision as well."

About 20 to 25 applications come in annually, and this year the foundation partnered with the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, Adams says. Candidates are interviewed in person and a scholarship committee chooses the top five. Renewable scholarships are awarded to winners.

"It doesn't matter which field," he says, though there are criteria which must be met annually such as grade point average. Also, they must leave open the lines of communication so the foundation can keep up with them.

"We follow these guys from the time they get those scholarships through early in their careers," the physician says.

Adams, who has been married to his wife, Annette, for 41 years and has three children and four grandchildren, says he likes the idea of giving back.

"I can't say I had mentors like we mentor these guys, but I had the good fortune to be exposed to guys who were probably responsible for me becoming a physician," he says.

Personal glance

What do you do for relaxation/to beat stress?

Golf and gardening. If I'm not hacking up the course, golf allows me to free my mind from my daily routine. And with gardening, I'm out there with nature and it's just me. It allows me to get in a place by myself and not think about anything other than what's right in front of me, and that's very peaceful.

What led you to become a medical professional?

I wanted to be an educator. My parents are educators, and I figured out in high school that educators do great work but aren't necessarily compensated as they should be. I was at a community health fair, and one of my parents' friends, an OB/GYN and pediatrician, was there. I discovered that they were doing education, and realized medicine would allow me to do some educating, but would also provide compensation and allow me to take care of my family.

If you could choose another profession, what would it be and why?

While an undergrad at Xavier University of Louisiana, I studied pre-med chemistry, but minored in English. If medical school hadn't worked out, I could still have become a college professor, if I had chosen to.


* Honoring Chattanooga’s 2023 Health Care Champions

* Champions of Health Care 2023: Dr. Krish Bhadra — Innovation

* Champions of Health Care 2023: Diona Brown — Administrative excellence

* Champions of Health Care 2023: Welcome Home — Volunteer organization

* Champions of Health Care 2023: Mark Kapperman — Volunteer

* Champions of Health Care 2023: Mitch Dizon — Academic physician

* Champions of Health Care 2023: Tim Davis — Lifetime achievement

* Champions of Health Care 2023: James Zellner — Community physician

* Champions of Health Care 2023: Kristi Perry — Individual community outreach

* Champions of Health Care 2023: Cempa Community Care — Group diversity & inclusion

* Champions of Health Care 2023: Ashley Haynes — Non-physician practitioner

* Champions of Health Care 2023: Paul Farmer — Administrative excellence

* Champions of Health Care 2023: Whitney Evans-Snardon — Rising star

* Champions of Health Care 2023: Erlanger Board of Trustees — Group community outreach

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