Dr. Sanjay Gupta visits UMich “Ahead of the Curve” speaker series
dr Sanjay Gupta joined F. DuBois Bowman, dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan, on Wednesday afternoon for the latest episode of the school’s “Ahead of the Curve” lecture series. The livestreamed call included discussions about the role Gupta has played in healthcare and the media, with a particular focus on combating misinformation and building trust.
Opening the event, Bowman outlined the speaker series’ mission, which aims to highlight contemporary healthcare leaders. The series launched in November 2020 and has since hosted seven speakers. Bowman said the School of Public Health hopes hearing from industry leaders will inspire future generations of professionals at the university.
“Leadership is a critical component in tackling complex health challenges and building a better future to reduce health inequalities,” Bowman said. “We want to learn about the important factors that shape great leaders. We also want to know how they evolve and grow. So that, in turn, we can think about how best to educate the next generation of leaders.”
During his global health work, Gupta has made a name for himself in the field of health communications as senior medical correspondent for CNN, as well as a podcast host and author. The two-time UM graduate is also a practicing neurosurgeon at Grady Memorial Hospital. Additionally, Gupta has found time to win multiple Emmy Awards and was named one of the Sexiest Men Alive by People magazine in 2003.
Cely Smart, Chief of Staff and Strategic Advisor to Bowman, was another of the lead organizers of the Ahead of the Curve series. In an interview with The Michigan Daily ahead of the event, Smart said speakers for the series are selected based on their ability to share valuable messages with the UM community.
“[Bowman]is thinking[of]people who are leaders in public health,” Smart said. “So you can really come from anywhere, but we’re looking for people who are dynamic leaders and who have something that we think would be valuable to share.”
During his time as a doctor in the late ’90s, Gupta said he developed an interest in global health policy. Gupta said he doesn’t feel healthcare workers are a big enough part of health policy discussions at this time and he believes that needs to change.
“I started writing about health policy issues,” Gupta said. “During my neurosurgery training, I took a year off to work as a White House Fellow, where I mostly wrote and worked on the same issues that the First Lady was working on at the time — that was Hillary Clinton… When I started CNN.” professionally, I should become a commentator on health policy issues.”
Gupta said there is a large overlap between the values medicine and journalism share. Both professions deal with individual human stories and lives, Gupta said.
“Journalists are all about storytelling, and medical and public health professionals are constantly exposed to the greatest stories in the world,” Gupta said. “Sometimes you forget how incredible the stories are. I think the journalistic part of my life reminded me of that.”
When asked about his experience in building trust between the public and the media during the pandemic, Gupta said both as a journalist and a doctor it is difficult to share definitive news when the situation is constantly changing.
“But I think no matter how the situation changes, it’s (important to know) if it’s coming from a place of trust,” Gupta said.
Smart said Gupta has stayed connected to his UM roots over the years. Most recently, Smart said Gupta helped select candidates for the Thomas Francis, Jr. Medal in Global Public Health last summer. The medal is awarded to individuals who have made a significant contribution to the advancement of global health.
“He’s given back to Michigan in a variety of ways and over the years,” Smart said.
Bowman also recalled that in 2018 the Gupta family sponsored a “hackathon” at the university, an innovation event aimed at developing new tools to improve health communication in partnership with the university’s Institute for Health Policy and Innovation. Gupta said he was motivated to sponsor the event at his alma mater because he realized there weren’t many programs dedicated to health journalism.
“There are many different ways that people communicate (about) health,” Gupta said. “It’s fascinating to me. I figured who better to teach me all this than Michigan students… We’d love to keep doing stuff like this where ideally there’s a major in health journalism dedicated to public health (and) scientific communication.”
Daily News Editor Sejal Patil can be reached at [email protected].