Atul Gawande


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Atul Atmaram Gawande (born November 5, 1965) is an American surgeon, writer, and public health researcher. He practices general and endocrine surgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. He is a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Samuel O. Thier Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School. In public health, he is executive director of Ariadne Labs, a joint center for health systems innovation, and chairman of Lifebox, a nonprofit that works on reducing deaths in surgery globally. 

On June 20, 2018, Gawande was named the CEO of healthcare venture Haven, owned by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JP Morgan Chase, and stepped down as CEO in May 2020, remaining as executive chairman while the organization sought a new CEO. He has written extensively on medicine and public health for The New Yorker and Slate and is the author of the books Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science; Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance; The Checklist Manifesto; and Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.

On November 9, 2020, he was named a member of President-elect Joe Biden's COVID-19 Advisory Board. On December 17, 2021, he was confirmed as the Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, and he was sworn in on January 4, 2022. Gawande was born on November 5, 1965, in Brooklyn, New York, to Marathi Indian immigrants to the United States, both doctors. His family soon moved to Athens, Ohio, where he and his sister grew up, and he graduated from Athens High School in 1983.

Gawande earned a bachelor's degree in biology and political science from Stanford University in 1987.[6] As a Rhodes Scholar, he earned an M.A. in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) from Balliol College, Oxford, in 1989. He graduated with a Doctor of Medicine from Harvard Medical School in 1995 and earned a Master of Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health in 1999. He completed his general surgical residency training again at Harvard, at the Brigham and Women's Hospital, in 2003.

As an undergraduate, Gawande was a volunteer for Gary Hart's campaign for the presidency of the United States. After graduating, he joined Al Gore's 1988 presidential campaign. He worked as a healthcare researcher for Representative Jim Cooper (D-TN), who was the author of a "managed competition" healthcare proposal for the Conservative Democratic Forum. Gawande entered medical school in 1990 – leaving after two years to become Bill Clinton's healthcare lieutenant during the 1992 campaign.

Gawande later became a senior advisor in the Department of Health and Human Services after Clinton's first inauguration. He directed one of the three committees of the Clinton administration's Task Force on National Health Care Reform, supervising 75 people and defining the benefits packages for Americans and subsidies and requirements for employers. But the effort was attacked in the press, and Gawande later described this time in his life as frustrating, saying that "what I'm good at is not the same as what people who are good at leading agencies or running for office are really good at."

Gawande led the "Safe surgery saves lives checklist" initiative of the World Health Organization, which saw around 200 medical societies and health ministries collaborating to produce a checklist, which was published in 2008, to be used in operating theaters. The Lancet welcomed the checklist as "a tangible instrument to promote safety," adding, "But the checklist is not an end in itself. Its real value lies in encouraging communication among teams and stimulating further reform to bring a culture of safety to the very center of patients' care."

Soon after he began his residency, his friend Jacob Weisberg, editor of Slate, asked him to contribute to the online magazine. Several articles by Gawande were published in The New Yorker, and he was made a staff writer for that publication in 1998. In January 1998, Gawande published an article in Slate – "Partial truths in the partial-birth-abortion debate: Every abortion is gross, but the technique is not the issue" – discussing how abortion policy should "hinge on the question of when the fetus first becomes a perceiving being" and "not on techniques at all – or even on when the fetus can survive outside the womb."

A June 2009 New Yorker essay by Gawande compared the health care of two towns in Texas to show why health care was more expensive in one town compared to the other. Using the town of McAllen, Texas, as an example, it argued that a corporate, profit-maximizing culture (which can provide substantial amounts of unnecessary care) was an important factor in driving up costs, unlike a culture of low-cost, high-quality care as provided by the Mayo Clinic and other efficient health systems.

The article "made waves" by highlighting the issue, according to Bryant Furlow in Lancet Oncology. It was cited by President Barack Obama during Obama's attempt to get health care reform legislation passed by the United States Congress. According to Senator Ron Wyden, the article "affected [Obama's] thinking dramatically" and was shown to a group of senators by Obama, who effectively said, "This is what we've got to fix." 

After reading the New Yorker article, Warren Buffett's long-time business partner Charlie Munger mailed a check to Gawande in the amount of $20,000 as a thank-you to Dr. Gawande for providing something so socially useful. Gawande returned the check and was subsequently sent a new check for $40,000. Gawande donated $40,000 to the Brigham and Women's Hospital Center for Surgery and Public Health, where he had been a resident.

In 2012, he gave the TED talk "How Do We Heal Medicine?" which has been viewed more than two million times. Gawande published his first book, Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science, containing revised versions of 14 of his articles for Slate and The New Yorker in 2002. It was a National Book Award finalist. 

His second book, Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance, was released in April 2007. It discusses three virtues that Gawande considers to be most important for success in medicine: diligence, doing right, and ingenuity. Gawande offers examples in the book of people who have embodied these virtues. The book strives to present multiple sides of contentious medical issues, such as malpractice law in the US, physicians' role in capital punishment, and treatment variation between hospitals.

Gawande released his third book, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, in 2009. It discusses the importance of organization and preplanning (such as thorough checklists) in both medicine and the larger world. The Checklist Manifesto reached the New York Times hardcover nonfiction bestseller list in 2010.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters, in the End, was released in October 2014 and became a #1 New York Times bestseller. It discusses end-of-life choices in assisted living and the effect of medical procedures on terminally ill people. The book was the basis of a documentary for the PBS television series "Frontline," which was first broadcast on February 10, 2015.

Best author’s book


The Checklist Manifesto