By Jaeson Parsons
Public health has never been more critical and those in this field have become increasingly important as the coronavirus crisis continues to rage across the nation and around the world. Hunkering down due to stay-at-home orders, Americans are seeking advice as to how to cope, and Dr. Sanjay Gupta is one of the clear standouts in this fight against unseen enemies, the coronavirus and the misinformation surrounding it.
From the tragedies of 9/11 to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010, Dr. Gupta has a long and prestigious history of credible work within the healthcare and media industry as both a respected neurosurgeon and as a medical correspondent on CNN.
Most recently, Dr. Gupta has been advising those concerned about the realities of COVID-19 through his regular podcast, entitled, Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction. He interviews experts in healthcare and policy to provide useful, credible information to combat the influx of misinformation which has become rampant during this ongoing national emergency.
Dr. Gupta also spends his days at Emory University Hospitals with his colleagues helping to present facts to a nation inundated by information from all sides. His latest work includes antibody testing—which was administered to him personally— and describing what he learned from the process.
“There are two different tests we are all becoming familiar with,” he says. “A diagnostic test that searches for the genetic markers of the Coronavirus and one that tests for antibodies.”
Dr. Gupta had his own blood taken to a lab to determine whether he was exposed to the virus, and then used his platform on CNN to showcase how this is done. He showed each step through the eyes of the experts he often speaks with, including Dr. Fauci, the national director for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)—a name the nation has become familiar with over the last few months. On his Twitter profile, Dr. Gupta recites his interactions with individuals such as Dr. Fauci to provide additional insight on the outbreak, stating, “There is still so much we don’t know about how the [Corona] virus works and impacts our bodies.”
The Quest for a Vaccine
In another podcast episode, Dr. Gupta reviewed the latest developments for the much-needed COVID-19 vaccine.
“The search for a vaccine has become one of the fastest moving in history,” said Dr. Gupta during his interview with medical student Sean Doyle, who is one of several clinical participants in a vaccine trial.
Doyle received his first dose of the vaccine in March at Emory University Hospital where Dr. Gupta is on the faculty as a neurosurgeon. Since receiving it, Doyle has returned each week, giving blood samples so vaccine investigators can monitor his health and the effectiveness of the trial.
“People like Sean are the only way vaccines can be proven effective for the population at large,” Dr. Gupta said. “While there are unknown risks for the early trial volunteers, it would be even riskier to skip these important testing stages.”
He highlighted these risks by giving the Swine Flu vaccination program during the Ford Administration as an example. In 1976, the US feared a pandemic and the vaccine was rushed to the public.
“In less than a year, nearly 25 percent of Americans had been vaccinated,” he said. “But soon, devastating side effects began to emerge. At least 30 people died after receiving the vaccine and about 450 more developed Gian Beret Syndrome, a neurological disorder which can lead to paralysis. The program was ended and lawsuits flooded the government.”
This is just one example of why vaccine trials are so critical and why podcasts such as Dr. Gupta’s are so important—to ensure the public understands the critical components the government and healthcare providers must follow in order to keep the public safe from hasty quick fixes.
On the Frontlines
Dr. Gupta grew up in a suburb outside of Detroit, Michigan. His parents both worked at the Ford Motor Company, with his mother being the first female engineer hired by Ford. Dr. Gupta earned both his undergraduate and his medical degree from the University of Michigan, and he performed his residency at the university hospital. He completed fellowships at the University of Michigan Medical Center and the University of Tennessee’s Semmes-Murphy Clinic. In addition, Dr. Gupta was selected as one of 15 White House Fellows, in 1997, serving as a healthcare speech writer and special advisor for First Lady Hillary Clinton.
In 2003, he was named one of People Magazine’s, “Sexiest Men Alive.” The following year, he married Atlanta family law attorney Rebecca Olson and together, they have three daughters—Soleil, Sage and Sky.
In addition to his medical pedigrees, Dr. Gupta has extensive experience in medical journalism.
He publishes a column in Time Magazine and has written three books: Chasing Life, Cheating Death, and Monday Mornings: A Novel.
Dr. Gupta joined CNN as a medical correspondent in 2001, just months before the September 11th attacks, and reported from the wreckage at ground zero. He was on the frontlines, reporting the latest from the war. When the U.S. invaded Iraq in response to 9/11, Dr. Gupta embedded with the U.S. Navy’s “Devil Docs” medical unit, traveling from Kuwait to Baghdad, Iraq, providing live coverage. He also performed several life-saving brain surgeries in a combat hospital deep within the desert.
Dr. Gupta’s contributions have earned him many accolades, including his work covering the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2006, which earned CNN a Peabody Award. His coverage of the New Orleans Charity Hospital, which he revealed was not evacuated as previously thought, earned him an Emmy Award for Outstanding Feature Story.
He was also honored by the Atlanta Press Club, who named him Journalist of the Year for 2004, as well as for his work as a healthcare provider by the Health Communications Achievement Award from the American Medical Association.
In addition to informing the adult population on the coronavirus crisis, Dr. Gupta recently hosted a town hall meeting focused on children and their concerns. He worked in partnership with Sesame Street and CNN to develop the, “ABC’s of COVID-19: A CNN/Sesame Street Town Hall for Kids and Parents,” which tackled issues important to kids and their parents.
Explaining how the virus has become a pandemic, Dr. Gupta reassured children there was no reason to panic, because “Scientists, doctors, and nurses all over the world are working hard to help.”
Along with his nightly updates on the progression of the virus and continued developments of a life-saving vaccine, Dr. Gupta continues to provide insight through many outlets such as social media and his podcasts, reassuring both child and adult alike that humanity can and will overcome this invisible enemy.
“We don’t know when it’s going to be over—I wish we did, but that’s the honest answer,” he said. “But it is going to be over. It’s not going to last forever.”