Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the long-time medical correspondent for CNN and a University alum, could put a new, high-profile face on the often out-of-the-limelight office of the surgeon general. That is, if he chooses to accept a reported offer for the post made last week by President-elect Barack Obama.
Gupta, 39, graduated from the University’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts in 1990 and from the Medical School in 1993. He also grew up in nearby Novi, Mich. and attended Novi High School.
The surgeon general is appointed by the president and serves a four-year term.
Karin Muraszko, chairwoman of the Department of Neurosurgery, helped train Gupta to become a neurosurgeon. She said his personality would help to bring more attention to the office of the surgeon general.
“He has a personality which is very bright, very engaging and very dynamic,” Muraszko said. “I think he’ll make an excellent surgeon general particularly in the role of communicator, which is an important part of surgeon general.”
Gupta is currently the senior medical respondent for the health and medical unit at CNN. He has reported in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as in New York City after the September 11 World Trade Center Attacks, in South Asia after the tsunami in 2004 and in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
“As a doctor, I take care of patients one at a time,” Gupta said in an interview with the University’s LSA magazine in the fall of 2008. “As a journalist who is a doctor, I have the opportunity to educate masses of people every day on CNN.”
While he is recognized throughout the country, Gupta has strong Michigan roots. He is the son of two Ford Motor Co. engineers who emigrated from India, and his father received a master’s degree from the University in 1968. After graduating from Novi High School in 1986, he was accepted to the University and enrolled in Inteflex — an accelerated program through LSA and the Medical School which has since been discontinued.
Jim Lawrence, principal of Novi High School, said Gupta was an excellent student. During his senior year, Gupta participated in debate, theater and student leadership. He was named valedictorian of his class. Aware of his potential, his peers chose him as the Most Likely to Succeed in his senior year.
“We certainly all feel it’s a great honor to have one of our alumni recognized by the Obama administration,” Lawrence said.
Jim Hanson, Gupta’s Advanced Placement chemistry teacher in high school, said Gupta was one of the best students he has encountered in his 41 years of teaching.
“You could tell that Sanjay had high level achievement goals, and he applied himself to the fullest in reaching these goals,” Hanson said in an e-mail interview. “He was never afraid to do that little extra to be successful.”
While studying at the University, Gupta wrote opinion pieces for The Michigan Daily about public health policies. He later returned to the University to attend graduate school, Gupta met his wife Rebecca Olson. Today they have two daughters: Sage and Skye.
After writing a series of articles concerning health systems that were published in The Economist, Gupta received a White House Fellowship during the Clinton administration. Throughout the year-long fellowship he wrote speeches about health care for First Lady Hillary Clinton.
Besides reporting for CNN, Gupta serves as a correspondent for CBS, writes a column for Time magazine and has published Chasing Light, a New York Times best-selling book about immortality. He is also an assistant professor of neurosurgery at Emory University School of Medicine.
Upon learning about Gupta’s potential appointment as surgeon general, CNN released a statement that read in part, “his on-air reporting has been on health and wellness matters and not on health care policy or any matters involving the new administration.”