Head of the Table - Anita Gupta, DO, MPP, PharmD, on the Importance of Global Health

  • Methangkool, Emily, MD, MPH
| Mar 22, 2021

AnitaGuptaIt was a pleasure to interview one of our phenomenal members, Dr. Anita Gupta.
Dr. Gupta has emerged as an internationally recognized leader in global public health. She is an anesthesiologist, pharmacist, and health policy expert, an alumnae of Princeton University and Harvard Business School, and an appointed faculty member at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She is nationally recognized as the first woman anesthesiologist-pharmacist to pioneer the cross-sector expansion of the opioid antidote, naloxone, on behalf of the American Society Anesthesiologists at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In addition, she is a practicing clinician, appointed advisor at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a Distinguished Fellow of the National Academies of Practice, a member of the National Academies of Science’s Global Forum, and an advisor to the US Department of Defense.

Dr. Gupta has spoken at global conferences, academic medical centers, and universities worldwide, and has also been interviewed by the Washington Post, Forbes, and CNN, among many others. Her recognitions include the American Association of Medical Colleges Learner Award, Top 100 Inspiring Leader Award, Top Global Emerging Leader Award, Goldman Sachs 10K Small Business Award, and Top in Healthcare in Philadelphia Biz. Dr. Gupta is the host of The Post-Call Podcast, editor of three books including 50 Studies Every Anesthesiologist Should Know and has been seen regularly on primetime as a thought leader on MSNBC, HLN, Fox News, and Dr. Oz. 

This interview, which was condensed and edited for clarity, was conducted by Emily Methangkool, MD, MPH.

How did you get interested in global and public health and emerging frontline threats?

My interest started at the midst of the opioid crisis in Philadelphia when I realized the impact and intersection of the crisis on patients, communities, and global health. While in Philadelphia, I noted the critical importance of solving these challenges with transformational innovation combined with equitable access and health policy reform. I pursued further education at Princeton University at the School of Public Policy and International Affairs to gain a clear understanding on how best to effectively improve health policy and global health. As the first anesthesiologist to attend this unique program at Princeton University, I was honored to gain clarity on health policy and global challenges, and to meet with world leaders to gain a clear and concise understanding on future global challenges in healthcare. In these conversations, I realized there is much work ahead not only in the U.S. but around the world on major emerging threats that physicians and anesthesiologists can take part in as frontline advocates. 

Why do you think it is important for anesthesiologists to be involved in these global and public health efforts?

As anesthesiologists, we have a vital multi-faceted perspective of healthcare and have been leaders in medicine, science, and many areas of innovation. We understand research, clinical care, operations, and strategic leadership. We understand how to save lives – we can solidly contribute to global communities.

What are you working on now related to global health?

I’m currently an appointed advisor with the Milken Institute’s FasterCures, working on a global emerging threats surveillance system which is focused on developing and implementing a framework that can monitor and track pathogens. FasterCures is a Washington, D.C.– based think tank that focuses on accelerating medical research. This healthcare-related non-profit is part of the Milken Institute's Center for Accelerating Medical Solutions. Using the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, we hope to create an early warning initiative for emerging threats, with the goal of detecting and responding to emerging pathogens with pandemic potential. We hope to leverage emerging technologies and scientific advances to do this. This prominent global advisory group, comprised of experts from academia, finance, and technology, is developing an infrastructure to address the deep fragmentation and lack of coordination that contributed to the pandemic’s spread. To be an anesthesiologist amongst this group is a real honor; and as part of this I’ve been able to engage with global and executive leaders including Mr. David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and Mr. Francis D’Souza, CEO, Illumina.

Do you have any advice for anesthesiologists who want to become more involved in public health?

Get involved with organizations like the CSA and ASA, and pay attention to global healthcare issues. ASA is actually a great forum to broaden your knowledge. You can also start at your own community or institution – are there any problems that you can identify in your own hospital or local community? Can you help improve the patient experience at the bedside or identify better therapeutic opportunities or innovation? In my experience, the simplest solutions to the largest challenges are often found right where we are.

What do you think are going to be the biggest challenges that patients and anesthesiologists are going to face in the future?

Of course, COVID-19 and new emerging threats will continue to be a global concern.  Anesthesiologists should focus on the future challenges that face patients, including advancing technology, big data, and genomics in healthcare. The digitization of healthcare will become an even bigger part of the patient journey and our experience, and how we use and interact with it will also continue to be a challenge.

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