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Alumni Stories: Anuj Gupta '90

Keeping Your Eye On The Prize: A Surgeon Speaks

by Andy Wright '06, Andrew Zabel '09 and Craig Rubens '06

Sometimes the beaten path gets a bad wrap.  Anuj Gupta ’90, an orthopedic surgeon based in Atlanta, GA, is here to refute that generalization.  Medicine is a field Gupta has been interested in since his undergraduate years at Dartmouth, if not before.  “I always knew I wanted to be a surgeon, because I wanted to work with my hands,” says Gupta.  As anyone who has ever considered medicine can tell you, becoming a doctor is a long road with little room for getting sidetracked.  And Gupta faced the challenge in the most efficient manner possible en route to his dream job.

Gupta says his upbringing is what drove him to pursue a medical career with such focus.  He was born in India, but moved with his parents to Maine when he was only a year and a half old.  He spent the majority of his childhood growing up in Maine and the Northeast.  When asked how he views his immigrant status, Gupta says, “I’m just as American as anybody else.”  However, he felt his parents, like many immigrant parents, encouraged him to pursue top academic degrees.  “You gotta graduate at the top of your high school class, and you gotta go to an Ivy League school, and then you gotta go to a professional school, and then you gotta get a career, and I pretty much followed that path to a letter.”

As a result, Anuj has been in learning institutions for the better half of his life.  However, he says Dartmouth sticks out in his mind as the best and most lasting experience, in large part because of the people he met there.  “Of all the experiences that I’ve had, my four years at Dartmouth were the best.  The friends that I made at Dartmouth are people I’ll know for my entire life, and I’m sure they’ll be at my funeral.”  He admits he spent most of his time on academic interests; he graduated with a degree in biology in addition to fulfilling all of the premed requirements.  One of the best experiences he had was doing research with Biology Professor Sam Valez during his senior winter, studying neural regeneration in crayfish.  The mentor-mentee relationship he developed with Valez both on a personal and academic level instilled in him the desire to explore his passions later in life.

Outside of the classroom, Gupta spent many days at the Dartmouth Skiway as an undergraduate with his friends.  He recalls their antics with a smile on his face, like their propensity to leave the marked ski trails behind in favor of more risky runs.  He also participated in intramural sports, particularly intramural hockey where he was used to “just getting his butt kicked on the ice.”  Sharing these types of experiences formed the backbone of lasting connections with his Dartmouth classmates.  “The friendships you forge in college are unlike any friendships you will make at any other time in your life, and it may just be that you’re staying up until 2 o’clock in the morning discussing philosophy over cold pizza.”

After graduating from Dartmouth, Gupta enrolled in medical school at Yale University.  “I wouldn’t want to go to college there, but it was great for med school.”  The experience had added significance for Gupta as the place where he met his future wife.  They were married a week after graduating from Yale.  The couple moved to Boston where he completed his orthopedics residency.  Gupta settled on this field of medicine because the doctors he worked with “remind him most of Dartmouth alums,” in that they are easy going, enjoy what they do, and they have a life outside of their professional practice.

Despite this flexible attitude, Gupta remains passionate about the responsibilities of his job.  “Surgery is definitely the best part about it.  Being able to make a specific intervention in a person’s life, and to improve their quality of life significantly, there’s really nothing else like it.  To face a person who is hardly able to walk and give them a new knee to walk again, that’s pretty big.”  Gupta says he is in surgery twice a week, typically 12 hours a day.  “I thought getting up for a 7:30 calculus class was torture … now, when I’m operating, I’m at work by 6:45.”  But he says the challenge that each new patient poses to his medical expertise compensates for the monotony of those long hours.

Gupta moved with his wife to Alexandria, VA, where he began specializing in joint replacements.  In 2002, they moved with their one year old daughter to Atlanta where he now works in a practice with 28 other doctors.  While he is happy to have a stimulating work environment, Gupta’s real passion lies with his family.  He says of his daughter, who is just starting kindergarten, “she is the light of my life.  If there’s anything that stands out in my life as being the one thing that is beyond comparison, it would be my daughter.”

Gupta’s hard work has paid off: he cannot imagine doing things differently than how he is living today.  Yet, despite his work ethic, he still claims it was divine intervention that landed him at Dartmouth.  “There was no better place on the planet for me – the environment, the instructors, the students, everything about it fit my personality to a tee, and I never would have known it during the application process because I didn’t do the research I should have.”  Gupta says that he values his four years at Dartmouth for being instrumental not only in teaching him how to think, but in exposing him to different ways of thinking.

“I cannot remember how to how to do a derivation in calculus, and I don’t remember most of organic chemistry….  It is the method of how we learn that I took away that was of the most value from an academic point of view….  But there’s something else that you learn at Dartmouth that you don’t learn in the classroom … that’s social interaction and the ability to communicate with people….  I know many other great schools can probably provide the same thing, but at Dartmouth it’s provided in a very unique way.”

Last Updated: 6/21/12