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Dr. Rahul Gupta was appointed to the position of director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy by President Joe Biden in July 2021, and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on October 28, 2021. Prior to serving in this role, Gupta spent nearly a decade in West Virginia, serving first as the executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department and later as the state’s commissioner of public health and chief health officer

Born in India in 1970 or 1971, Gupta grew up in Maryland and the suburbs of Washington D.C. In 1994, he completed medical school at India’s University of Delhi. In 2006, Gupta earned a master’s degree in public health from the University of Alabama-Birmingham. He also holds a global master’s of business administration from the London School of Business and Finance. His medical specialties include internal and preventive medicine.

In the early 2000s, Gupta practiced medicine in Alabama, during which he also taught as an assistant professor of medicine at UAB. In 2007, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he taught at Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University. He came to West Virginia in 2009 after accepting the position of executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department. Moving to West Virginia, though it came with a small pay cut , allowed Gupta the opportunity to work in public health, which he was passionate to do.

In response to the 2009 swine flu pandemic, Gupta oversaw a vaccination program that provided Kanawha County a higher vaccination rate than both state and national averages. The program, which afforded county schoolchildren the opportunity to receive the flu vaccine in-school, continued even after the pandemic subsided and in 2012 earned the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department a model practice award from the National Association of County and City Health Officials. In 2013, Gupta also began overseeing the Putnam County Health Department in addition to his duties with the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.

In 2014, Gupta received national attention for his response to the Elk River Chemical Spill. In the days and weeks following the spill, Gupta urged caution, setting him at odds with others in state and federal leadership. “The official agencies are saying [the water is] okay to drink,” Gupta told CNN at the time. “They’re not saying it’s safe to drink.” Gupta called for a long-term study to monitor the health effects of the spill.

Gupta found himself front-and-center in West Virginia’s fight against the opioid crisis upon his 2015 appointment as the state’s commissioner of public health and chief health officer. In this capacity, Gupta oversaw a comprehensive study of the state’s overdose deaths, resulting in a number of policy recommendations. These recommendations included increased public education to combat misinformation and stigma associated with drug use, requiring first responders to carry naloxone, and reigning in the amount and duration of painkiller prescriptions.

Gupta left West Virginia in 2018 to serve as senior vice president and chief medical and health officer at March of Dimes. In 2021, Gupta was tapped by Biden to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the first medical doctor to ever hold the position. As the nation’s drug czar, Gupta still has an active role in combating West Virginia’s opioid crisis.

Gupta is married to Dr. Seema Gupta, a physician in the Veterans Administration. They are the parents of twin sons.

This Article was written by Jeffrey Webb

Last Revised on October 20, 2022


Sources

Ehley, Brianna. “The Immigrant Doctor Who’s Solving West Virginia’s Opioids Crisis.”. Politico, May 2, 2018.

Constantino, Marcus. “Kanawha health officer marks five years.”. Charleston Daily Mail, March 14, 2014.

“United States Senate Confirms Dr. Rahul Gupta as Director of National Drug Control Policy.”. Office of National Drug Control Policy Press Release, October 28, 2021.

Hanna, Jason. “West Virginia tap water test results expected in 1-3 weeks”. CNN, February 21, 2014.

Cite This Article

Webb, Jeffrey "Rahul Gupta." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 20 October 2022. Web. 09 December 2022.

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