Transplant surgeon Dr. Meera Gupta helps patients get 'a second chance at life'
Dr. Meera Gupta is surgical director of UK HealthCare's Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program
and Pediatric Kidney Program, as well as assistant professor of surgery at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.
Here, Dr. Gupta explains how she became involved in her field, why she loves what she does, and how she is helping address health inequities for patients.
What inspired you to pursue a career in medicine, and how did you get started on this path?
Dr. Gupta: As a sophomore in college, I started doing clinical research with a neurologist. That’s what inspired me to pursue a career in medicine. It wasn’t until my third year of medical school when I discovered that I really loved transplant surgery – and I still do to this day.
How have you seen the field of medicine evolve during your career, and what changes do you anticipate in the future?
Dr. Gupta: I think technology has both advanced and challenged the medical field over the recent decade. We have become more efficient with health care delivery and incorporated technology in diagnostics, surgery, and other therapies.
I think that these changes have improved our care not just within, but also across health care systems, and our ability to reach patients in more rural communities via telehealth. One of the many challenges with technology is in keeping up with the work while also maintaining personal relationships with patients.
What is your favorite aspect of your work, and why?
Dr. Gupta: I love helping a patient through their transplant journey and watching them recover after a major operation, getting a second chance at life without organ failure. These patients are amazing and I consider myself very lucky to be able to do my part to help in their recovery from very sick to healthy, and then follow them forever.
That’s something that not all surgical subspecialties get to experience. We become part of their family, and I find that very rewarding.
What are some of your current projects related to patient care, education, or research that you’re proud of?
Dr. Gupta: My research and quality improvement initiatives are primarily focused on health care equity and access to transplantation, fair patient selection, and strategies to ensure good outcomes.
I am working on understanding provider biases against patients with liver failure and how those biases may impact their care. I am also studying transplant outcomes among patients living with human immunodeficiency virus and whether social determinants of health confound or modify their risk for poor outcomes.
Finally, I’m wrapping up a funded pilot study examining alterations in mineral bone metabolism after living kidney donation and kidney transplantation, which demonstrates no significant impact on mineral bone health among living donors.
What advice would you give someone considering a career in medicine or just starting in the field?
Dr. Gupta: My advice would be to be open-minded when you start thinking about what specialty you choose. Then, figure out what makes you clinically, intellectually, and emotionally excited. Also, remember that the specialty you choose will continue to change and may look very different compared to when you first started your career.
Make sure you love learning and relearning within that specialty. Because when you do what you love, it’s never work.