- The former health commissioner of West Virginia is a close ally of Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.
An Indian American health expert is among top candidates favored to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The Washington Post reported that Rahul Gupta, the chief medical and health officer at March of Dimes, could be appointed “the nation’s top drug policy official, a post that President Biden will not restore to Cabinet rank despite insisting as a senator that the ‘drug czar’ deserves that status.” A final decision is expected as soon as this week, the Post report said.
President Biden played a key role in creating the Office of National Drug Control Policy in 1982. It coordinates national policy around fighting substance-use disorders, including the response to an opioid crisis that has worsened during the pandemic. In 2009, President Barack Obama demoted the office from his Cabinet. The Post reported that since then advocates have demanded for Biden “to reverse the decision, pointing to his own years of advocacy to elevate the role.”
Gupta, specialist in internal medicine and preventive medicine, was previously West Virginia’s health commissioner and led Biden’s transition efforts for the drug policy office. He is said to have a strong working relationship with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V). Two unknown sources told the Post that Manchin’s backing was a factor in Gupta’s candidacy. “Sen. Manchin has the utmost respect for Dr. Gupta has expressed support for his nomination to the White House,” Sam Runyon, the senator’s spokesperson, told the Post.
Prior to moving to West Virginia, Gupta served as an academic faculty in Tennessee and Alabama before going to West Virginia originally in 2009 to lead the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department. He is also adjunct professor in the Department of Health Policy, Management and Leadership in the School of Public Health at West Virginia University and holds several other academic appointments as well.
Throughout his career, Gupta has served as an advisor to nonprofit organizations and task forces on local, national and international public health policy and programs. He has served as a peer reviewer and editorial board member for journals and for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, and has published over 120 peer-reviewed articles. He was named “West Virginians of the Year” in 2017 by the Charleston Gazette-Mail, and has received numerous teaching and service awards and honors.
Gupta was born in India and grew up in Maryland and the suburbs of Washington, D.C., the son of an Indian diplomat. At age 21, he completed medical school at University of Delhi, and subsequently did his internship and residency at St. Joseph Hospital, Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois. He earned a master’s degree in public health from the University of Alabama-Birmingham and a global master’s of business administration degree from the London School of Business and Finance. Gupta and his wife, who is also a physician, have identical twin sons studying at Yale University.