Dr. Sanjay Gupta is the multiple Emmy®-award winning chief medical correspondent for CNN and host of the CNN podcast Chasing Life. Gupta, a practicing neurosurgeon, plays an integral role in CNN’s reporting on health and medical news for all of CNN’s shows. In addition to his work for CNN, Gupta is an associate professor of neurosurgery at Emory University Hospital and associate chief of neurosurgery at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. He serves as a diplomate of the American Board of Neurosurgery. Dr. Gupta has been named one of PEOPLE magazine’s ‘Sexiest Men Alive,’ a ‘pop culture icon’ by USA Today, and one of the ‘Ten Most Influential Celebrities’ by Forbes Magazine. He has won several awards for his humanitarian efforts and the John F. Kennedy University Laureate award. Dr. Gupta has received numerous honorary degrees and delivered a commencement address in the ‘Big House’ at his alma mater in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Dr. Gupta was born in Novi, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. Recalling his childhood, he says, “My parents were immigrants from India, working for Ford Motor Company. My mother was the first female engineer ever hired by Ford, a fact that is presented with great pride in the Indian and engineering communities.”
It was during his teenage years that Gupta found his passion for medicine. He recalls an incident that left a lasting impression on him, “I was in my teens when our family faced a medical crisis. My grandfather, with whom I was very close, had a stroke and landed in the hospital. Sitting anxiously at his bedside, I watched nurses come and go, checking his vitals and looking at the monitors attached to his body. I remember sitting there wondering what I could do to make him feel better—to bring back the warm, thoughtful man I knew. When the doctors explained what they could do surgically to help, I thought, “I want to be like them.”
Dr. Gupta was inspired by the neurosurgeons who treated his grandfather and knew he wanted to follow in their footsteps. He adds, “I wanted to know what they know and heal as they did.” His grandfather eventually recovered, and this experience set Dr. Gupta on his path toward a medical career.
Dr. Gupta then devoted himself to his studies and was accepted into Inteflex, a unique program at the University of Michigan that provided a seven-year combined undergraduate and medical school education. Being accepted into medical school right after high school presented challenges, but it also allowed him more time to explore other areas of interest.
He recalls one of his mother’s favorite sayings, which he still applies to his life today: “A change of activity is a form of rest.” When feeling burnt out during med school, he followed her advice and tried something different. Despite his initial goal of becoming a neurosurgeon, he found joy in writing and recognized the power of storytelling in medicine. He had always enjoyed writing and started contributing articles to small magazines and newspapers. As his portfolio grew, he began writing for more prominent publications, including a stint with the White House, planning events, and writing speeches. He says, “Through writing, I gained a new perspective and saw the potential to reach a broader audience with valuable health information. I realized I could make a difference in preventive medicine and help save lives like my grandfather’s.”
At the time, Dr. Gupta had completed his medical training and was working as a faculty member at the University of Michigan. He traveled to Atlanta to interview for a position at Emory University and Hospital. During his visit, he ran into Tom Johnson, CEO of the Cable News Network (CNN), whom he knew from his work at the White House. Johnson informed him about CNN’s plan to start a medical division and was keen for Dr. Gupta to join them.
Since he was a neurosurgeon, Dr. Gupta was skeptical about joining CNN as a newscaster. However, he found the opportunity to reach people and help them understand medicine and what doctors do exciting. After some consideration, he agreed to take the job on one condition.
“I’ll do it,” Dr. Gupta told Tom, “on one condition. I need to see patients and perform surgery.” He wanted to report on medical news with firsthand experience as a doctor. Fortunately, CNN offered him a schedule allowing him to perform surgery every week and continue teaching while working as a reporter.
In the months following his joining CNN, Dr. Gupta was assigned to report from New York City after the devastating 9/11 terrorist attacks. During that fall, he also broke several stories about the anthrax attacks. In 2003, he was embedded with the US Navy’s ‘Devil Docs’ medical unit and covered the unit’s travel to Baghdad from Iraq and Kuwait. He provided live coverage of the first-ever battlefield operation performed during the war and also conducted life-saving brain surgery five times in a desert operating room. In 2004, Dr. Gupta traveled to Sri Lanka to cover the tsunami that claimed more than 155,000 lives in Southeast Asia, contributing to CNN receiving the 2005 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award.
Since then, he has covered several significant events as a journalist. He was the first western reporter to investigate the Ebola outbreak in Conakry, Guinea, and reported on the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake in 2015. Dr. Gupta has also reported on major events such as the Flint water crisis, the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, and Hurricane Maria’s impact on Puerto Rico. He has moderated a panel with President Obama on the opioid crisis and co-hosted an Emmy-winning series called ‘Finding Hope: Battling America’s Suicide Crisis.’
In recent years, Dr. Gupta has shifted his focus toward long-form reporting. He currently hosts the CNN Original Series ‘Chasing Life with Dr. Sanjay Gupta,’ which documents his global quest to uncover the secrets of a longer, healthier, and happier life. In addition, he stars in the HBO Original Documentary ‘One Nation Under Stress,’ which explores the reasons behind the decline of life expectancy in the United States. Dr. Gupta’s investigative reporting on medical marijuana has resulted in five award-winning documentary films called ‘Weed.’
Dr. Gupta believes that “Amazing things can happen when you start seeking solutions to the big problems of the world.” His commitment to exploring the big problems affecting human health and wellness has been an inspiration to many, and his work has had a significant impact on the medical community.