Dr. Sanjay Gupta gives Anderson Distinguished Lecture on medicine, media

Dr. Sanjay Gupta speaks on a stage

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon, best-selling author, and CNN correspondent, told those attending his Anderson Distinguished Lecture Series address that they were an unusual audience – at least for him. “It's exhilarating for me to get to speak to real live and awake people. I don't get to do this very much,” he laughed.

“In neurosurgery, your patients are blissfully asleep. Television is different too. It's really a one-way street. You don't get the feedback when you do TV. You don't get the feedback good or bad. You're sitting in this sort of darkened studio and it's just a few lights and a lens,” Gupta explained.

Gupta told the Millett Hall audience about his careers, his experiences, and the things he’s learned along the way over the last 25 years. “I get to be a perpetual student, but then also a storyteller, and teach through those stories as well. And I really love it,” he said. “The dance sometimes, between medicine and media, can be a bit awkward. It can be a bit emotionally challenging covering the sort of stories that we cover.”

Gupta talked about America’s healthcare system, its costs, and why so much is spent on a comparatively few people, the five percent who comprise half of the nation’s healthcare costs. “They are people who have chronic illness. They are people who take multiple medications,” he explained. “They are the frequent flyers in the health care system. They're the kind of person that if you go, you meet them at an event and you ask them about themselves, one of the first things they're going to tell you is about their illness, because they are defined by illness much more than they are defined by health.”

“There's no question that our healthcare system does so many things well. I love being a part of this healthcare system,” he noted. “But when you have a hybrid healthcare system like the one that we have, inevitably the question will arise, ‘Who is responsible for what and why?’”

Gupta talked his experiences in Iraq in 2003, where he was a journalist embedded with a group of Navy corpsmen outside Baghdad when a young officer was brought in with a gunshot wound to the head. As the only person there with extensive experience in brain surgery, Gupta operated on the man’s skull with a construction drill during a sandstorm, ultimately saving his life.

When Gupta met his patient months later, he realized that the man and his family had not discussed what happened until Gupta showed up. “They didn't really ever talk about this unbelievable, life-altering experience that happened. And so as I'm sitting there with them in their living room, I sort of realized that I'm nurturing and fostering a conversation that wouldn't have otherwise occured, which really stuck with me because I think we can learn so much by simply enabling those conversations to happen, taking the time to listen, not sitting it out, and hopefully then taking these lessons and applying them to other places around the world.”

Before his lecture, Gupta visited with several students at the Farmer School of Business, engaging in a wide variety of topics ranging from his time as a White House Fellow and his career path to physician suicide rates and healthy life habits.

“Dr. Gupta was so full of energy and I really admired his passion for healthcare. As a student who wants to work in healthcare, I took a lot away from this discussion and will use these learnings to guide me in the future,” senior marketing and supply chain major Patrick Donovan explained.

“He was very open and candid with us, welcoming our questions and giving us valuable insight from his wildly diverse background," senior supply chain major Tyler Schmitz said.

“As business students, it's rare that we get exposure to this subject matter, so it was fascinating to hear from somebody with experience in both public policy and healthcare who was able to share his expertise with us," senior marketing and entrepreneurship major Laura Mena said.

“It was wonderful to have the opportunity to talk with Dr. Gupta. He had some insights that I am eager to discuss with my global health class!” senior marketing major Maddie Sawyer noted.

“It's been a great day already, hanging out on the campus and talking to a bunch of students. You always learn a lot just being in an environment like this,” Gupta said. “I think this represents the best of adult education. Just being able to sit around and talk about things that maybe you're learning about, or just want to gain new knowledge about.”

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Dr. Sanjay Gupta in Millett Hall talking to audience

Members of the Anderson family in the audience

Dean Marc Rubin and Dr. Sanjay Gupta sitting on stage

Dr. Sanjay Gupta listens to a Farmer School student introduce himself

Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks with Farmer School students in a conference room.