Doctor Q&A: Nalin Gupta

Dr. Nalin GuptaDr. Nalin Gupta is the chief of pediatric neurological surgery at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital. He treats children with neurological disorders such as brain tumors, hydrocephalus, cranial and spinal congenital anomalies and epilepsy. Gupta is involved in national clinical studies of brain tumors and the effectiveness of fetal surgery for spina bifida.

Why did you decide to specialize in pediatric neurosurgery?

I liked the sense of hope that exists in pediatric medicine. There was a definite difference between the atmosphere that I felt when I did my training in adult neurosurgery as compared to pediatric neurosurgery.

Some of your research focuses on fetal surgery for spina bifida. Are there any other exciting developments in surgical treatment for neurological disorders in children?

We are currently studying the safety and feasibility of stem cell transplantation for a severe developmental condition. It's exciting to be part of a process that may actually lead to treatment options for diseases that have no treatment now.

What's your motto?

Kids first.

What may your patients be surprised to learn about you?

I like cooking!

What do you do when you're not caring for patients?

Well, it's difficult to have enough time for everything, so I try to spend as much time as I can with my own kids.

What's the best part of being a doctor?

Seeing that big smile when someone knows they're getting better.

What's the hardest part?

I have a lot of patients who have long term disabilities. Virtually all of them have dreams, hopes, aspirations. It's hard to see the disability bump up against those dreams. I guess we tell them that they're no different from any of us, but that's sometimes hard for the patient to really understand when they live with the consequences of their condition every day.

If you weren't a doctor, what would you be?


If you could change one thing about medicine today, what would it be?

Make it easier. Patients and everybody in the system feel, I think, that it has become too complex to navigate the system. Part of that is educating people about what we can do, and what we can't do. I think we give people unreasonable expectations that are sometimes impossible to meet.

Who are your heroes in real life?

People who start with very little and make that a challenge rather than an obstacle.

August 2011

Written by freelance writer Abby Sinnott.

Photos by Mark Estes.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Neurosurgery Clinic
1825 Fourth St., Fifth Floor, 5A
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-7500
Fax: (415) 353-2889

Stroke & Cerebrovascular Disease Center
1825 Fourth St., Fifth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-7596
Fax: (415) 353-2400

Spina Bifida Program
1825 Fourth St., Fifth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 476-3899
Fax: (415) 502-7516

Craniofacial Center
1825 Fourth St., Fifth Floor, 5C
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 476-2271
Fax: (415) 476-9513

Pediatric Brain Tumor Center
1825 Fourth St., Sixth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-2986
Fax: (415) 353-2657

Pediatric Epilepsy Center of Excellence
1825 Fourth St., Fifth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-2437
Fax: (415) 353-2400

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Nalin Gupta
Dr. Nalin Gupta,
pediatric neurosurgeon