Monday, December 31, 2007
Looking back at 2007
It's time to reflect and take stock of 2007. For me, it was an incredible year mainly because of the arrival of my second child, another girl! CNN was kind enough to give me a few days off this past week, and I spent all of it with my wife and two daughters. It reminded me just how important it is to always remember the ones we love and to really be with them physically and mentally as much as possible. Of course, with our busy lives, sometimes that is easier said than done...
So, where did 2007 take the CNN medical unit?
Well, for a while, there was some sort of recall every few weeks. As we learned, there was too much lead in our children's toys and too much melamine in our pet food. It forced us to take a real look at the globalization of our commodities and often times we didn't like what we saw. China was the culprit in both cases.
Of course, we didn't always have to look beyond our own borders when it came to questionable food safety. There was E.coli in California spinach and Midwest ground beef, leading to one of the biggest meat recalls in our history. Our medical unit decided to tackle these issues head on, not only reporting directly from China but also from the Salinas Valley in California --known as the salad bowl of America. Our goal was to follow every aspect of the food chain - from the farm to the fork.
There were medical stories that caught our collective attention. The story of Andrew Speaker, a man infected with drug resistant Tuberculosis traveled across the world on commercial planes. He was subsequently quarantined and then had a portion of his lung removed in Colorado. He invited me to watch it and tell the story to the world. I did. What I learned was that our public health system had great difficulty in deciding exactly how to handle Mr. Speaker and that did not bode well for a situation of many people coming down with an infectious disease. In some ways, Andrew was treated like Typhoid Mary, but more importantly, he may have served as a wake up call.
Chris Benoit, the wrestler who murdered his entire family, was subsequently found to have a brain that had the characteristic findings of dementia. While it is unclear exactly what caused Mr. Benoit's brain to degenerate, it did get people talking about steroids again.
Of course that is something former Senator Mitchell and all of baseball kept talking about most of the fall.
I hosted several documentaries this year, and a few really touched me. One was "Waging War on the VA." What I tried to do here was really analyze the care our veterans receive after returning from war. For many of them, the VA represents the very best of our medical system. For many others though, the system is inconsistent, filled with mind boggling bureaucracy and sometimes it's simply unfair. As a journalist, I could hear countless stories from across the nation and then take them directly to those who are responsible. The response was remarkable from our elected officials, veterans and citizens alike. We only hope we did our profiled veterans true justice.
Another special I helped host along with Anderson Cooper and Jeff Corwin was Planet in Peril. From Central Africa to the Cartarets Islands, I saw first hand the effects of global warming. I met the world's first environmental refugees and saw the incredible pillaging of the earth that goes on every day. I was reminded again of my daughters and how much this plight could affect their lives.
I also had a chance to introduce the world to Amanda Baggs. While I have spent most of my life as a neurosurgeon, I had to start by admitting that I knew very little about autism, which is why I spent months reading, talking to experts and simply trying to assimilate all that I had learned. It was a daunting task and I will always wish I could do more and report on all aspects of autism. Stay tuned for more in 2008.
Along with Arwa Damon, I hosted a report about five year old Youssif. Badly burned by masked men, Youssif may have been yet another tragic tale from Baghdad except that you the CNN viewers responded with a thrust to propel goodness over cruelty. And in December, we introduced you to the new Youssif, who had undergone three operations in Los Angeles thanks to your contributions.
As I sit and write this blog, we are already looking ahead to January.
I will be reporting all month long on our broken health care system and more importantly what can be done to fix it. I am also planning a trip to Afghanistan to bring you front line stories about how medics take care of people in some of the most treacherous and dangerous places on the planet.
We do count on you the viewers and users of CNN.com for your thoughts and ideas and I want to thank you personally for your contributions. If you have any areas you would like me to cover in 2008, please let me know here. Also, while we can't always post the tremendous number of responses we get, we will always try and post representative remarks for all to read.
Happy New Year, Sanjay.
ABOUT THE BLOGGet a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends -- info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.
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