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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2619

Rahul Gupta: West Virginian of the Year

By Prakash M Swamy
New York, 03 January, (

Dr. Rahul Gupta, State Health Officer and Commissioner for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Bureau for Public Health, has been named as “West Virginian of the Year” 2017 by Charleston Gazette-Mail -the state’s largest Pulitzer winning newspaper.

In the past, this honor has generally gone to governors, senators, celebrities such Jennifer Garner. He is perhaps the first immigrant to ever receive the coveted honor. Dr. Rahul Gupta is a family medicine doctor in Charleston, West Virginia. He received his medical degree from Delhi University College of Medical Sciences and has been in practice for more than 20 years.

Dr. Rahul Gupta serves as the West Virginia State Health Officer and Commissioner From 2009-2014 Dr. Gupta served as the health officer and executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, the state’s largest local health department. Additionally, Dr. Gupta served as the executive director and health officer of the Putnam County Health Department.

Prior to working in West Virginia, Dr. Gupta was an assistant professor of medicine at Meharry Medical College and clinical assistant professor of medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of medicine; both in Nashville, Tennessee. He also served as assistant professor of medicine at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

Dr. Rahul Gupta and his staff are working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on what he called a “post-autopsy autopsy.” Gupta is compiling data to develop an overdose profile that identifies factors shared by the 881 West Virginians who fatally overdosed on drugs last year.

It’s a huge undertaking. Gupta said he hopes the project will provide a blueprint for saving lives. “We wanted to learn from people who passed away to avoid what’s been happening year after year,” Gupta said. “What we’re finding out is that, while we may only have a single chance, there appear to be opportunities to prevent fatal overdoses in the state.”

So far, Gupta and his researchers have discovered 86 percent of those who fatally overdosed had interacted with health care providers within the past dozen months — at places like a doctor’s office, hospital emergency room or health clinic. Many of those had two or three interactions. All were opportunities to steer people into drug treatment.

Of those ages 25 to 34, about half of those who overdosed and died had spent time in jail during the previous 12-month period. “There might have been missed opportunities to work with them at the time of their release,” Gupta said.

He said over 70 percent of West Virginians who fatally overdosed were covered by Medicaid within the past year. Also 65 percent had received prescriptions for controlled substances like pain pills within a year of their death. About 40 percent had such prescriptions 30 days before they overdosed. West Virginia has the highest overdose death rate in the nation. This year’s total is expected to surpass last year’s record number of overdoses.

“Oftentimes, we end up just counting deaths,” Gupta said. “But now we’re trying to learn from those who passed away.” This year, Gupta and his office also established a panel of public health experts to develop a “rapid opioid response plan.” The plan is due in mid-January.

The office has distributed 16,000 doses of naloxone to emergency responders, developed standards for syringe exchange programs, set up an Office of Drug Control Policy and worked with a national group that represents health officials to share West Virginia’s opioid-fighting efforts, such as the analysis of people who overdosed.

“The deaths are the most important piece we can do something about immediately,” Gupta said. “It’s an attempt to utilize an evidence-based, data-driven approach to reduce the overdose deaths.”

The previous awardees include John Chambers, President and Chief Executive Officer of Cisco Systems, Okey L. Patteson and Arch A. Moore Jr., Governors, Adm. Felix B. Stump, Commander of Navy’s Pacific Fleet, Senator Robert C. Byrd, Dr. James Harlow, Physicist, 16th President of West Virginia University, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, Legislator, Secretary Of State, Governor, U.S. Senator, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Harvard Professor, Elizabeth Hallanan, One of America’s Few Female Federal Judges, Jennifer Garner, Actress and Catherine Johnson, recipient of Presidential Medal Of Freedom

- Asian Tribune -

Dr. Rahul Gupta
Rahul Gupta: West Virginian of the Year
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