Dr. Samir Gupta: a calm and credible science communicator
Dr. Samir Gupta was selected by his peers for the Media Engagement Award — Trailblazer in the Medical Post Awards.
By Louise Leger
Why he won Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Samir Gupta became a trusted figure for many Canadians thanks to his calm demeanor and regular appearances on CBC News. Dr. Gupta is a clinician-scientist whose research revolves around communicating complex scientific concepts to a general audience. When the pandemic started, he quickly saw the need for accurate and credible science communicators. He has since given more than 280 television interviews and multiple COVID-19 related presentations at conferences across the world.
To reach Canada’s younger population, Dr. Gupta pitched and created, in collaboration with the CBC, a series of videos on COVID-19 that have amassed over 11 million total views. He also founded a science communication brand, called “The Feed with Dr. G,” using funding from a Public Health Agency grant. The Feed with Dr. G wants to “make science obvious” and posts videos, on various social media platforms, that focus on topics such as COVID-19, vaping, and supplements.
Dr. Gupta has been actively engaging with Canada’s media outlets since 2014, guided Canadians through a difficult period in medical history, and continues to bring his knowledge and superb communication skills to each and every interview and social media post.
What one judge said… “Dr. Samir Gupta is a powerhouse media personality of erudition, clarity and punchy one-liners, showing up in almost every media agency over the last few years, sometimes on more than one per day.”
What has been most gratifying about this work? Most challenging? In medicine we all have the fortune of having impact in many different ways, and the most immediate impact I think most of us feel is when we get to make things better for the patient directly in front of us and help them to make the right decisions for their health. This work feels somewhat like that but on a larger scale—an opportunity to relate important messages about health and science to a much larger group of people than I could ever do in my own small practice.
The biggest challenge is I think one that any physician or scientist doing public health work, in the last few years especially, will relate to, which is the growing prevalence of anti-science views, which ultimately become manifest as attacks on physicians and scientists themselves, especially on social media.
What is something your physician colleagues might find surprising about you? I think that many people recognize that myself and others have been particularly active in various forms of media throughout the pandemic, but most do not realize that I have had an interest in science communication since long before the pandemic, and had dedicated television segments on a few different networks—trying to tackle misinformation and to spread science and the belief in science—for years before the pandemic hit.
What are you most proud of in terms of your career? Doctors are blessed with lots of different opportunities to have impact and to feel gratified by the work that they do (best job in the world!). For me it’s a tie between some of the research that I have done that has had some impact, and a few patients that always come to mind, where my involvement really changed their story.
What’s something about yourself you’re working to improve? Everything is a work in progress! I seldom watch my own media segments, but periodically I force myself to do so, because I am always looking for ways to improve my style, content, and delivery to make it more accessible and “sticky” for the lay public. This is the part I enjoy the most, but it is also often the hardest part, especially when the underlying concepts are complex.
How do you turn around a bad day? That’s easy. Barbie playtime with my seven-year-old daughter.
What brings you joy? Lots of things—I’m easy to please. Aside from the obvious things like family, friends, good food, and vacation time, what really picks me up on my long clinic days is that rare patient where everything went perfectly well and you know you really helped them.