On the Phone with Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Think about what makes your heart skip a beat. That’s the key to an impactful career.”

-Dr. Sanjay Gupta

And we’re together again! This week, Inesha and I are back in the same country (and city) as we spend a few days in New York courtesy of Glamour Magazine’s celebration of their Top 10 College Women Contest awardees. I suppose it goes without saying that being a part of the latest Top 10 class  has been nothing short of surreal. As Inesha and I spend a few days beings whisked around and cared for by Glamour, I still relish one day many weeks ago when Glamour made it possible for me to speak with one of my biggest inspirations from afar: Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Inesha had met Dr. Gupta previously during her work at CNN last summer, but for me, this was to be a first-time encounter and certainly my first real conversation with the medicine/media mogul himself. And so, there I was on February 5th, sweating (both from the heat and in anticipation) as I sat in a small upstairs room of the Compañeros En Salud office in Chiapas, Mexico. I was practically giddy with excitement–in just a few minutes, Sanjay Gupta would be at the other end of the phone line. I was doing all I could to pray that my little Mexican móvil (cell phone) wouldn’t die on me now.

Thankfully it all worked out well, and I know that I’ll never forget the conversation I had with someone who has long been a reminder that it really is possible to carve your own career path between seemingly disparate fields. While the “how do you manage to do it all?” question might seem hackneyed at this point, I thought Dr. Gupta put a humble and useful spin on his answer.

He told me that he doesn’t think of being part of both the worlds of medicine and media as jobs that exist in different silos. “Your job as a doctor is to educate patients,” he told me, “and that’s the same job that I have as part of the media.” Clearly, perspective matters. But he did tell me that I should focus on my pursuit of medicine now and that my love of storytelling would follow.

Here’s a snippet of our conversation that Glamour Editor Katie Sanders wrote about here:

Prioritize Your Goals
“One of the things that helps keep my life organized is remembering that being a medical journalist is largely about educating patients. Even as a neurosurgeon, I’m spending a lot of my time speaking to patients about their disease. If you’re going to be a physician and then a physician-journalist, spend this part of your life really focusing on the medicine part of it. Don’t try to do a fifty-fifty split now. You want make sure you’re top-notch and that you’ve really dedicated your mental bandwidth to this one area for a while. Just focus on one main thing, and at some point you’ll be ready to think about how to incorporate other things.”
—Dr. Sanjay Gupta, neurosurgeon and CNN chief medical correspondent

And now months later, I get to see Dr. Gupta’s words  in the print edition of the magazine :) To Glamour and Dr. Gupta, I couldn’t be more grateful!

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