Nelson L. Adams III, M.D. ’78, Named Chairman of the Meharry Board of Trustees

The Meharry Medical College Board of Trustees has named Nelson L. Adams III, M.D. as Chairman of the Board. Dr. Adams, 64, had served as Chairman completing the term of Frank S. Royal Sr., M.D. who stepped down in October of last year after serving on the board for more than 30 years.

A 1978 graduate of Meharry, Dr. Adams is a board certified Obstetrician-Gynecologist with a vibrant practice in Miami, Florida. He has served on the Meharry board since 2005, most recently as a vice chairman.

“I stand on the shoulders of others who have served in this capacity, most recently for a long time, Dr. Frank Royal, so I certainly want to continue in the manner that he did in terms of moving the college forward and being supportive of the leadership, which is the President,” Dr. Adams said adding that Meharry has great opportunity ahead as it embraces technology, transparency and even social media.  “We need to make sure the world knows Meharry as an authentic institution of higher learning that is doing a significant piece in providing physicians of color to the workplace; and just happens to be a historically black institution.”

A native of Miami, Fla., Dr. Adams is the son of the late Naomi A. Adams and the late Nelson L. Adams; who were both educators in the Dade County Florida school system. A product of the Florida public school system, Dr. Adams completed his undergraduate degree at Howard University where he majored in zoology. He obtained leadership roles early in his career; becoming the President of the Pan-Hellenic Council at Howard while he was an undergraduate member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. He entered Meharry in the summer of 1974 as a part of the Master Med program; a special program where students could obtain both an M.D. and a master’s degree in five years, or opt out and join the regular medical school class after one year. After serving as President of the freshman class of the Master Med program, Dr. Adams joined the regular M.D. class. He lived on campus at the Meharry Towers during his entire four-year period at Meharry.

“I had many great experiences at Meharry and it certainly was a very significant time in my life. A lot of growth took place both academically, and also as it related to social skills, and confidence,” Dr. Adams said. “I was particularly impressed by the Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dr. Henry Foster who actually had delivered two of my nephews when he practiced in Tuskegee, Alabama. He impressed me as a professor and as the kind of physician that I might want to be. He influenced me in such a way that I, too, decided that OB/GYN was the specialty area that I would pursue.”

Dr. Adams completed his four-year residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Emory University in 1982. He practiced in Mobile, Ala. for three years and then returned to Miami to care for his father. He began his practice in Miami and married his wife Effie (Jones) Adams. He and his wife have been married 32 years and they have two adult children, Victoria and Nelson.

Currently, Dr. Adams serves as the Chairman of the Dept. of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Jackson North Medical Center, President of N. L. Adams, M.D. and Associates and Chairman of the board of the Sunshine State Health Plan. He was also the founder, President and Chairman of Access Health Solutions (AHS), a managed care company providing services in 26 counties in Florida. Additionally, Adams is a Clinical Professor at the Florida International University, Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. He is past president of the National Medical Association.

Dr. Adams begins his role as chairman at a time when Meharry is in the process of strategic planning; reviewing its mission, vision, and guiding principles that will set the agenda of the college through 2026.

 “As we talk about 2026, we are talking about growth, we are talking about building. We are talking about going somewhere, not staying at the same place. It will be a different day in 2026,” Dr. Adams said. “Our vision and mission have to remain relevant so that the work that we do can be substantive, and hopefully appreciated and meaningful. Scripture reminds us that where there is no vision the people perish. A big part of what we need to do is to make sure that our vision is clear and that it’s shared not only by the board but by all of the stakeholders, from those who are employed at Meharry, to faculty, clearly the students, the alums, and the broader community. We don’t want to miss the opportunities that we have to make Meharry 2026 a better place than Meharry 2017. We can do that when we work together. ”

Dr. Adams said the role of Meharry’s Board of Trustees is to set policy and then to support the college president - in particular, as it relates to fundraising and providing resources - who is following the strategic agenda of the college.

“We are in many ways ambassadors of the college,” Dr. Adams said. “This rich legacy that we call Meharry is one that has to be cherished, it has to be protected, it has to be nurtured, and as trustees we have a sacred trust to protect Meharry, its rich legacy; but more importantly, its great future.”

Dr. Adams wants Meharrians to strive for excellence at every level.

As a Meharry alum, Dr. Adams has been active with the Meharry Alumni Association. He encourages alumni to “step it up and give back.”

“Without Meharry many of us would not have had the opportunity to be practitioners of the healing arts and to provide in the way that we have for our families, and contribute in the way that we have to our communities,” he said.

Dr. Adams advises students that attitude is everything. Students should follow the mantra, ‘Yes I can’ and ‘Yes I will.” He outlined five C’s and said Meharry students should be competent, compassionate, committed, collaborative, and Christ-centered. 

“There will be mountain experiences where you will feel like you are perhaps on top of the world, you might even think that you are all of that; but never forget there will be valley experiences as well. The good news is, whether you are on top and experiencing a sunshiny day, or deep in the valley and the rains and the flood waters are coming and you don’t know whether or not you can survive, you have to understand that it’s really not about you. Your job is to do the best you can with what you have, regardless of the season, as long as you are doing your best,” Dr. Adams said. “Good, better, best; never ever let it rest, not until our good becomes our better, and our better becomes our best. So Meharry family, as Chairman, I would love to be able to say to you as I said to my wife when we first met…Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be.”