KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Knox County’s Advisory Board of Health is getting a new member. Covenant Health System’s Dr. John Adams is filling an open seat on the board.

Adams is an infectious disease specialist and the System Epidemiologist for Covenant Health System. Now he has another title: Advisory Board of Health member. “I think there’s some knowledge and skill sets that I can bring to the board that will be unique and helpful,” Adams said.

Adams is filling the spot vacated by Dr. Patrick O’Brien, who chose not to stay on as an advisor when the County Commission stripped the board of its regulating power earlier this year.

“The President of the Knoxville Academy of Medicine Dr. Ollis approached me to see if I had an interest in filling that role,” said Adams.

Adams said yes, and that he was inspired by the ongoing pandemic. “It’s been such a dominant part of everything that I do for the past over a year now that that was an inspiration. But it’s important to provide sound advice to our public health authorities and even looking beyond COVID, having well-positioned community physicians, particularly when we have expertise in the area, to advise those authorities, it’s sound policy,” Adams said.

Throughout 2020, we saw the health board as a focal point of tense discussions and disagreements among community members.

Adams said, “It’s not that much different from what I deal with on a regular basis trying to provide a sound education for people to get an appropriate scientifically-based message out there, and provide some balance to all the various arguments.”

He also outlined his top priorities as he gets ready for this new role. “To get my feet wet. Know how things work. And to be a voice for my field, whenever I have the opportunity,” he said.

Wednesday is Adams’ first Advisory Board of Health meeting. The board no longer has the power to set policy or put regulations in place. They now simply serve as advisors to the Knox County Health Department.