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September 8th, 2009
06:51 PM ET

Surgeon and journalist

By Tim Langmaid
CNN Medical Managing Editor

I work with Dr. Sanjay Gupta in CNN’s Medical unit. Sanjay is a practicing neurosurgeon who spends much of his time away from CNN working at a hospital in Atlanta. Since he joined CNN in 2001, Sanjay’s two worlds (brain surgeon and journalist) have collided (so to speak) on a few occasions.

Covering the war in Iraq in 2003, Sanjay was called upon while reporting on the U.S. Navy’s Devil Docs– the military's nickname for a group of physicians who provide battlefield medical care. A 23-year-old Marine hit with a sniper’s bullet was left with massive head trauma. Jesus Vidana was declared dead… twice. But he had a faint pulse when he reached Sanjay, the surgeon. Vidana survived the surgery… and the war.

Sanjay was still in the war zone in Iraq when he was asked about the surgery. His response offers some insight into Sanjay the doctor, the journalist and the human being. “They don't have a neurosurgeon here,” Sanjay said. “They knew that I performed these sorts of operations so they asked me to actually perform that particular operation- which I felt medically and morally was the right thing to do.” A couple of years later, Sanjay wrote: “As a neurosurgeon, I was asked to step back from my journalist's role to look at his gunshot wound to the head. Shortly thereafter, I was removing a bullet from his brain. Within an hour, Jesus had been treated, operated on and was recovering just outside the operating room.”

Sanjay is currently on assignment in Afghanistan. He is covering U.S. military doctors in the battle zone and reporting for Anderson Cooper 360. This week he has been called upon again as a surgeon, this time for an operation that required four surgeons when only three were available. Sanjay is profiling one of the other surgeons tonight on AC360. You should watch—you’ll find that Sanjay has more in common with this doctor than just medicine.

It is controversial whenever a journalist becomes part of the story he or she is covering. I have been a journalist for more than 20 years and I fully understand that. But I also think there are exceptions—and Sanjay is one of those exceptions. I would argue that if Sanjay did not pick up a scalpel in the field when it is requested (and ABSOLUTELY necessary), it would be even more controversial.

Yes, I think Sanjay is an exception. And I think Sanjay’s few battle field patients (and their families) would agree.

Editor’s Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


May 30th, 2008
12:49 PM ET

Obama's health by the numbers

By Tim Langmaid
CNN Medical Managing Editor

A week ago today, Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, allowed journalists, including Dr. Sanjay Gupta, to view hundreds of pages of his medical records, dating back about eight years. This week Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic front-runner, released a very brief summary of his medical history.

The summary was written by Dr. David L. Scheiner, who notes he has been Obama's physician for more than 21 years. Neither candidate is required to divulge details about his health to the public. Both have. There's been a great deal of interest in McCain's health, primarily because of his bouts with skin cancer. For Obama, there have been fewer questions, but most have focused on his history with cigarettes.

You can read the doctor's one-page summary of Obama's health by clicking here.  Below are the highlights:

Obama is kicking his cigarette habit. Scheiner notes the senator has been an "intermittent" smoker but doesn't mention when he began smoking or how many cigarettes, on average, he smoked a day. But he confirms what Obama has mentioned on the campaign trail: The senator is using Nicorette gum with success. Smoking is more than just an obvious health issue for Obama – the senator's mother died of ovarian cancer and his grandfather died of prostate cancer.

Scheiner shares some lab results from Obama's most recent physical exam (January 15, 2007). The numbers indicate the 46-year-old is in very good health:

– Cholesterol 173   (less than 200 is considered "desirable" by the American Heart Association)
– HDL 68   (more than 60 offers some protection against heart disease according to AHA)
– LDL 96   (less than 100 is considered "optimal," the AHA says)
– Triglycerides 44   (less than 150 is normal)
– PSA 0.6   (lower than 2.6 is considered low/good according to the National Cancer Institute)

The doctor notes that Obama's blood pressure was a low 90 over 60 when he measured it during his exam almost a year a half ago. His electrocardiogram, or EKG, a measure of the heart’s electrical activity, was normal too. Scheiner also writes that, at the time, Obama was exercising regularly and often jogging three miles a day. That healthy habit may be getting tested now by the demands of the campaign trail.

Editor’s Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


May 23rd, 2008
10:32 AM ET

Dr. Gupta this weekend

By Tim Langmaid
CNN Medical Managing Editor

This weekend be sure to tune in for two reports from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

At 8:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday watch "House Call." Gupta will examine the medical records of 71-year-old Sen. John McCain. If elected, McCain would be the oldest elected president in U.S. history by Inauguration Day in 2009. Also, "House Call" will look at re-growing body parts – it's becoming reality at a military hospital in Texas. Plus, on the road and looking for food, find out the best and worst choices at your favorite roadside fast-food joints.

Then at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET Saturday and Sunday, watch "The First Patient – Health and the Presidency." This CNN Special Investigations Unit hour reported by Gupta explores the health demands of being commander in chief – and the challenges facing presidential doctors. See how the aging process may accelerate for those serving in the Oval Office. Learn about the health care the president receives day to day and in a worst-case scenario. And see how the nation and the world respond when the American president is sick or injured.


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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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