Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s prescription for life: Do something that scares you every day.
Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent told a crowd of about 2,500 at the University of Texas at Arlington Tuesday night that he struggled with communicating when he first started reporting.
Then, his wife told him to think of the camera as one of his patients.
“The reason I do it, the reason most reporters do is because we believe it will make a difference,” Gupta said. “I have zero desire to be a voyeur. I think that’s what scares journalists the most.”
Gupta spoke at UTA’s College Park Center as part of the Maverick Speakers Series. A practicing neurosurgeon out of Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital, he’s worked at CNN since 2001.
During his “Medicine and Media” lecture, Gupta said that he was even “scared out of his mind” to speak to such a large crowd, then he joked that the UTA audience “surpassed CNN’s.”
Gupta said that medicine and the media has a lot of similarities like constant homework and credibility at the core.
Gupta, who at one point was in the most-traveled person in all of CNN, said that “to travel to some of the hottest, most dangerous spots in the world is pretty stupid... but it’s intoxicating.”
He spoke of his scariest moment while working as a war correspondent in Iraq, when he was called on to take off his journalist hat and put his neurosurgeon one to help save the life of a lieutenant that had been shot in the head. The man, Jesus, was alive, but shaky, he recalled.
Gupta took a carpenter’s drill that had been used to install tents earlier in the day, disinfected it and used it so he could remove the bullet with part of his brain. Jesus was then sent off on a helicopter. A few months later he got the call that Jesus was OK, and Gupta visited his house. He realized Jesus and his family had never really talked about the situation.
“It’s part of this job to do things that scares you for sure, but that foster conversations you wouldn’t have had otherwise,” he said.
Gupta fostered conversation recently when he captured national headlines with his reversed stance on medical marijuana. Gupta originally dismissed the medical benefits of the plant, but publicly apologized in August after changing his mind.
Just last week Gupta said, “I am not backing down on medical marijuana; I am doubling down.”
Earlier in the day, Gupta spoke to the Star-Telegram about his support of medical marijuana, but lack of interest for its recreational use.
Gupta released his second marijuana documentary, “WEED 2: Cannabis Madness,” on CNN last Tuesday after meeting with patients, scientists and the curious alike.
“All the politics and propaganda had overridden science,” he said.
He said he realized a couple of years ago that studies on medical marijuana were all focused on the harm and not the benefits of the drug.
The father of three also answered questions from a select group of communications, nursing and bioengineering students.
He talked about health care and holistic alternatives, the impact that the arts have on healing and his reporting on the Affordable Care Act.
“I find, as a doctor, it didn’t make sense to have all these wonder advancements in technology and not (make them available) to the people who needed them the most,” Gupta said.