Obama picks Sanjay Gupta as US surgeon general

January 7th, 2009 - 10:04 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Jan 7 (IANS) President-elect Barack Obama has offered the job of surgeon general of the United States to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, an Indian American neurosurgeon and health affairs correspondent for CNN and CBS, media reports said.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.

The Washington Post, which was the first to report the story Tuesday as also CNN, said Gupta did not deny the account but declined to comment.

The offer followed a two-hour Chicago meeting in November with Obama, who said that Gupta could be the highest-profile surgeon general in history and would have an expanded role in providing health policy advice, the sources cited by the Post said.

Gupta later spoke with Tom Daschle, Obama’s White House health czar and nominee for Health and Human Services secretary, and other advisers to the president-elect.

CNN released a statement saying, “Since first learning that Dr. Gupta was under consideration for the surgeon general position, CNN has made sure that his on-air reporting has been on health and wellness matters and not on health-care policy or any matters involving the new administration.”

The Michigan-born son of parents who were born in India, Gupta has always been drawn to health policy. He was a White House fellow in the late 1990s, writing speeches and crafting policy for Hillary Clinton.

His appointment would give the administration a prominent official of South Asian descent and a skilled television spokesman.

Gupta, who anchors the medical affairs programme “House Call with Dr. Sanjay Gupta” on CNN, has discussed the job offer with his bosses at CBS and CNN to make sure he could be released from his contractual obligations, sources cited by Post said.

His role as journalist and physician have sometimes overlapped. During the 2003 Iraq invasion, Gupta was embedded with a navy unit called Devil Docs and, while covering its mission, performed brain surgery five times, the first of which was on a two-year-old Iraqi boy.

Gupta’s only hesitation in taking the post is said to involve the financial impact on his pregnant wife and two children if he gives up his lucrative medical and journalistic careers. But he is expected to accept the position
within days, the Post said.

The Obama transition team is impressed with the combination of Gupta’s past government experience, as a White House fellow in 1997 and a special adviser to then-first lady Hillary Clinton, along with his medical career as a neurosurgeon and his communication skills, CNN said citing a transition source.

Gupta is a member of the staff and faculty of the Department of Neurosurgery at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. He regularly performs surgery at Emory University Hospital and at Grady Memorial Hospital, where he serves as associate chief of neurosurgery.

Gupta joined CNN in 2001. As chief medical correspondent for the health and medical unit, he is a lead reporter on breaking medical news, provides regular health and medical updates for “American Morning,” and reports for CNN documentaries.

Based in Atlanta, Gupta also contributes health stories to CNN.com, co-hosts “Accent Health” for Turner Private Networks, provides medical segments for the syndicated version of “ER” on TNT and writes a column for Time magazine.

He also anchors the global health programme “Vital Signs” for CNN International and is featured in a weekly podcast on health issues called “Paging Dr. Gupta.”

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