Jan 9, 2009

Personality - Sanjay Gupta;Surgeon General

Gilbert Cruz

In many ways, the selection of Dr. Sanjay Gupta as President-elect Barack Obama's pick for surgeon general makes perfect sense. As a television personality, he has ample experience communicating with Americans about health issues in a necessarily simple way — and that is really the bulk of the job (though the Washington Post reports that Gupta has been offered a concurrent position in the new White House Office of Health Reform), though most surgeons general have been largely invisible since the days of Ronald Reagan's C. Everett Koop, who spoke out often against the dangers of smoking. Bill Clinton's Joycelyn Elders got into hot water for advocating the teaching of masturbation, while George W. Bush's Richard H. Carmona admitted to getting a gag order from the White House on anything that didn't match the Administration's politics. Gupta, who enters politics with an already robust fan base, will most likely not suffer the same fate.

Fast Facts:

• Is 39 years old; received undergraduate degree and doctorate of medicine from University of Michigan. Married to wife Rebecca Olson, a family-law attorney, with two kids and another on the way.

• Is currently a practicing neurosurgeon at two Atlanta hospitals and an assistant professor of neurosurgery at Emory University School of Medicine.

• In addition to his TIME magazine column, is best known for his work on the air — most notably on CNN, where he often appears on American Morning and has his own half-hour weekend medical show, House Call with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

• Has worked on many brilliantly named CNN documentaries, including Fat Chance, Danger: Poisoned Food, Quake Zone, Killer Flu, Sleep and Blood Spilled.

• Previous experience in government is limited to a coveted gig as a White House fellow in 1997, in which he worked as an adviser to then First Lady Hillary Clinton.

• Was embedded with a Navy unit, the Devil Docs, during the 2003 Iraq invasion. In that time, he performed five brain surgeries, including one on a 2-year old Iraqi boy wounded by U.S. soldiers.

• Was chosen by People magazine as one of their 2003 "Sexiest Men of the Year."

Quotes By:

• "I'm a doctor first ... If I had to choose one [profession] today, I'd choose medicine."
— On whether his TV career takes precedence over his medical one, Washington Post, 2006

• "A recent study said that most doctors interrupt their patients within 11 seconds ... I don't. I think I'm an emotional doctor. I'll sit down right next to them on the bed and talk."
— On his bedside manner during his regular surgical rotations, People, Dec. 1, 2003

• "As a neurosurgeon, I was asked to step back from my journalist's role to look at his gunshot wound to the head. Shortly thereafter, I was removing a bullet from his brain."
— In an article about one of the surgeries he performed in Iraq (this one on a 23-year-old Marine, Jesus Vidana), CNN.com, May 29, 2006

• "Healthier cities are successful cities. I would focus on increasing the amount of green space, because it is good for the earth and for our bodies. I might buy thousands of bikes, paint them a really ugly color (so people wouldn't steal them ...) and simply distribute them around a city."
— During an interview with website Wordchanging.com, Dec. 10, 2008

Quotes About:

• "I am unaware of any public-health experience or qualifications he has to be the leader of the nation's public-health service."
— Gerard M. Farrell, executive director of the Commissioned Officers Association of the Public Health Service (the body headed by the surgeon general), on Gupta's lack of credentials, Washington Post, Jan. 7, 2009

• "The surgeon general's role has been to be the country's doctor, and having someone who is immediately recognizable to many people can be very helpful."
— Linda C. Degutis, former president of the American Public Health Association, New York Times, Jan. 6, 2009

• "How sexy is he? So sexy that he makes you forget he's reporting on the flu, SARS or pesticide levels in farmed salmon."
— People, Dec. 1, 2003

• "Does it compromise my journalistic objectivity to say that Dr. Sanjay Gupta is a dick?"
— Rachel Sklar, Huffington Post media columnist, on Gupta, after an incident in which Gupta (incorrectly, according to Sklar) accused Michael Moore of including misinformation in his health-care documentary Sicko, Huffington Post, July 11, 2007

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