Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Neurosurgeon, TV Star, Now Hollywood Executive Producer!

The award-winning chief medical correspondent for CNN chats with iVillage about his new role in Hollywood.

Does Sanjay Gupta have a clone? That’s what I wrote jokingly on Twitter as I was preparing to interview the multiple Emmy Award-winning chief medical correspondent for CNN who is still a practicing neurosurgeon and who managed to also find time to write three best-selling books. Oh yes, the 43-year-old’s also a father of three who runs triathlons!!! One of his colleagues at CNN joked in a Twitter reply that Sanjay has “Seacrest-like energy” referring to the omnipresent Ryan Seacrest.

Well, Sanjay, whom I know from my days working at CNN and CBS (he’s also a contributor to 60 Minutes!), can now add television executive producer to his incredibly impressive roster of credentials. Sanjay’s best-selling novel, Monday Mornings, (highly recommend, total page turner!), is the basis for a new series bearing the same name premiering on TNT February 4. (Sanjay and award-winning producer, David E. Kelley, are executive producers.)

The show centers around secretive meetings of surgeons that take place in real life -- meetings I never knew about and you probably didn’t either – gatherings where surgeons talk about mistakes that were made, mistakes that could sometimes be deadly. “It’s designed to be a setting where people can say what they want and it’s not supposed to be punitive but it can be really, really harsh sometimes,” Sanjay told me in a casual interview at TNT’s studios in Atlanta. “Just a little bit more dignified than a street fight.”

Watch as Sanjay reveals who he named one of his most villainous characters after -- the answer might suprise you!

 

When you are a neurosurgeon for nearly 20 years (Sanjay graduated medical school in 1993), you have plenty of stories, and those stories are the basis for many of the characters on the show, and the storylines. One of those storylines connects with something Sanjay experienced very early in his residency. “I thought it was going to be one of those things that we never talked about again,” he said. “It just became one of those things that we all went through together and no one really mentions. So when I got to write this as a storyline for the book, I felt like it was a little bit of a catharsis.”

It revolves around a doctor who “we all knew just wasn’t a very good doctor,” said Sanjay. “He wasn’t very nice and he was kind of reckless. And I just remember one time, we were all in the room together, and these are some of my best friends...We were listening to this guy talk about a patient, and it became obvious that it was just so bad – and that you couldn’t help but imagine he was talking about your own mother or a family member of yours. And it really made you angry. And it turned into one of these meetings where there was a purging and I always remembered that.”

That doctor is the basis for the character named Dr. David Martin on the show. And get this – he was named after none other than one of Sanjay’s really good friends, who is a former medical producer at CNN. “He loves this sort of stuff. So I, as a little bit of a toss to him, I decided to name one of my most villainous characters (after him),” Sanjay said with a laugh, revealing he also has a pretty good sense of humor.

What does Sanjay friend David Martin think? We bet he shares Sanjay's good humor about the gesture!

We’ll have more from Sanjay all week long, including hearing about his favorite medical dramas, what it was like to work with David E. Kelley, and how he balances work with being a dad to three darling girls (hint – chocolate covered waffles help!)

Kelly Wallace, a former CNN Correspondent, is Chief Correspondent of iVillage. You can follow Kelly on Twitter (@kellywallacetv).

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