Obama's Top Doc Pick: Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Choice of journalist could bring more attention to surgeon general post.

January 6, 2009, 6:39 PM

Jan. 7, 2009— -- Americans may be seeing CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta in a different role once the Obama administration settles in.

CNN revealed today that Gupta had been tapped for the post of surgeon general. Gupta, who currently is chief medical correspondent for the health and medical unit at CNN, is perhaps most well known for his appearances on CNN news shows -- including "American Morning," his own weekend program, "House Call with Dr. Sanjay Gupta" and various documentaries.

Despite this busy schedule, Gupta managed to continue as a practicing neurosurgeon and associate chief of neurosurgery at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. He is also an assistant professor of neurosurgery at the Emory University School of Medicine.

The wave of media speculation following the news that Gupta was under consideration overwhelmingly suggested that he would accept the post, a move that could bring additional attention to the position in the years to come.

When contacted by ABCNews.com, CNN would not comment as to how long they have known that Gupta was in the running for the top doc spot.

"Since first learning that Dr. Gupta was under consideration for the U.S. surgeon general position, CNN has made sure that his on-air reporting has been on health and wellness matters and not on health care policy or any matters involving the new administration," the network said in a statement released Tuesday.

The surgeon general post would not be Gupta's first experience in the overlapping niche of politics and medicine. According to his professional profile on CNN's Web site, Gupta was one of only 15 people chosen for the White House Fellows program in 1997. He also served as special advisor to Hillary Clinton when she was first lady while President Clinton was in the White House.

Gupta Reported on Iraq, Katrina

Gupta joined CNN in the summer of 2001. Since then, his career has intertwined his medical expertise with journalistic zeal. In 2003, Gupta was an embedded correspondent with the U.S. Navy's medical unit, the "Devil Docs." The posting allowed him to provide viewers with exclusive reports from Iraq and Kuwait -- including live coverage from a desert operating room of the first operation performed during the war.

Gupta also performed five brain surgeries at the time of his battlefield medical coverage, including one particularly notable emergency surgery on a 2-year-old Iraqi boy shot by U.S. Marines when he was in a car that failed to stop at a checkpoint, according to Associated Press reports.

Gupta also contributed to coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath in 2004, which won CNN a Peabody Award. It was also during that year that the Atlanta Press Club named him Journalist of the Year.

In 2007, Gupta's first book, "Chasing Life," hit bookstore shelves and became a best-seller.

Most recently, Gupta spearheaded the documentaries "First Patient" and "Fit to Lead" in connection with the 2008 presidential campaign.

But the 39-year-old surgeon's star power appears to go beyond the book shelves. In 2003, according to his CNN profile, People magazine named him on of their "Sexiest Men Alive," while USA Today bestowed on him the honorific "pop culture icon."