Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | Dr. Sanjay Gupta tapped as Obama’s Surgeon General
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Dr. Sanjay Gupta tapped as Obama’s Surgeon General

Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been asked by Pres-elect Obama to be the country Big news for Asian Americans (and for the South Asian community): Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the affable and seemingly tireless chief medical correspondent for CNN (and a practicing neurosurgeon), is President-elect Barack Obama’s choice to serve as Surgeon General of the United States.

According to the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz:

Gupta has told administration officials that he wants the job, and the final vetting process is under way. He has asked for a few days to figure out the financial and logistical details of moving his family from Atlanta to Washington but is expected to accept the offer.

It’ll be great to have another Asian American high up in the Obama administration, and the pres is smart to hook Gupta, because he’s so well-known and well-liked, not to mention trusted, by the general public.

But it’ll be a loss for journalism, and one less prominent Asian American journalist in the national media.

I’ve watched Gupta do hard-hitting investigative pieces, and I’ve seen him being interviewed by countless CNN anchors whenever a medical or health-related story airs and needs an expert opinion. (The handsome doc was also named one of People magazine’s “Sexiest Men Alive” in 2003.)

One of the most powerful reports I’ve seen Gupta do was from Iraq, when he became a participant instead of a journalist. He ended up performing brain surgery to save a soldier’s life on the spot in a MASH unit, and the report ended with a reunion with the soldier back home.

In fact he performed surgery five times during his reporting from Iraq. Imagine if Gupta hadn’t been on hand as a reporter when these soldiers were injured.

He was hired by CNN in the summer just before 9/11 in 2001, and he’s become a mainstay of the network.

From CNN’s bio, here are Gupta’s accomplsihments as a journalist:

Gupta joined CNN in the summer of 2001 and became part of the network team covering the Sept. 11 attacks in New York City and led breaking news reporting on the anthrax attacks later that year.

In 2003, Gupta reported from Iraq and Kuwait as an embedded correspondent with the U.S. Navy’s medical unit, the “Devil Docs.” He provided viewers with exclusive reports from points along the unit’s travel to Baghdad and provided live coverage from a desert operating room of the first operation performed during the war and also performed brain surgery five times himself. Besides his battlefield medicine coverage, Gupta also reported from Kuwait immediately after a low-flying missile hit a Kuwaiti shopping mall.

In 2004, Gupta traveled to the international AIDS conference in Bangkok, Thailand, where he reported on the pandemic for CNN. In December 2004, he was sent to Sri Lanka to cover the disaster and aftermath of the tsunami that took more than 155,000 lives in South Asia. That coverage contributed to the awarding of an Alfred I. duPont Award to CNN.

The following year, Gupta contributed to CNN’s Peabody Award-winning coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. In addition to his other reporting in New Orleans, Gupta broke the news that official reports that New Orleans’ Charity Hospital had been completely evacuated were incorrect, revealing that more than 200 patients remained there for five days after the hurricane made landfall.

But it wasn’t just his reporting that must have caught Obama’s eye. Gupta’s career at CNN has been spent promoting healthier lifestyles, a prime directive of the Surgeon General position. Also from the CNN bio:

Gupta’s passion for inspiring Americans to lead healthier, more active lives also led him to launch “New You Resolution” and later “Fit Nation,” CNN’s multi-platform grassroots initiatives against obesity. Two nationwide “Fit Nation” tours have culminated in special long-form programs that revealed the hazards of obesity in children, “Fat Chance,” and the challenges in eating healthy in a culture and regulatory environment that makes processed food so prevalent in the American diet, “Danger: Poisoned Food.”

During the presidential campiagn last year, he also hosted documentary reports on the candidates’ health titled “Fit to Lead.”

Sanjay Gupta’s fit to lead the country, as the top doc.

I just hope that his parents are happy and proud. He is, after all, Asian American (even more intense for doctors, Indian American!) and he’s giving up a practice — a dream career as far as Asian parents are concerned — as a brain surgeon…..

Here’s Gupta being interviewed on mercury and the rise of Autism: