Atul Gawande

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Atul Gawande
Gawande atul download 1.jpg
Born (1965-11-05) November 5, 1965 (age 50)
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Residence United States
Nationality American
Alma mater
Notable awards

Atul Gawande (born November 5, 1965) is an American surgeon, writer, and public health researcher. He serves as general and endocrine surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts and as associate director of their Center for Surgery and Public Health. He is also a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health and in the Department of Surgery at Harvard Medical School. In public health, he is co-founder and Executive Director of Ariadne Labs, a joint center for health systems innovation, and also chairman of Lifebox, a nonprofit that works on reducing deaths in surgery globally.[2]

He has written extensively on medicine and public health for The New Yorker and Slate, and is the author of the books Complications, Better, The Checklist Manifesto, and Being Mortal.

Education and early years[edit]

Gawande was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Indian Maharashtrian 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 an undergraduate degree in biology and political science from Stanford University in 1987. As a Rhodes Scholar, he earned an M.A. in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) from Balliol College, Oxford in 1989.[3] Gawande 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.

Political career and medical school[edit]

As an undergraduate, Gawande was a volunteer for Gary Hart's campaign. As a Rhodes Scholar, he spent two years at Oxford University. After Oxford, he joined Al Gore's 1988 presidential campaign, working as a health-care researcher for Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), who was author of a "managed competition" health care proposal for the Conservative Democratic Forum. He entered medical school in 1990, but left after two years to become Bill Clinton's healthcare lieutenant during the 1992 campaign; he later became a senior adviser in the Department of Health and Human Services after Clinton's inauguration.[4] He directed one of the three committees of the Clinton Health Care Task Force, supervising 75 people and defined the benefits packages for Americans and subsidies and requirements for employers. He returned to medical school in 1993 and earned a medical degree in 1995.[5]


Soon after he began his residency, his friend Jacob Weisberg, editor of Slate, asked him to contribute to the online magazine. His pieces on the life of a surgical resident caught the eye of The New Yorker which published several pieces by him before making him a staff writer in 1998.

A June 2009 New Yorker essay by Gawande[6] 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.

Ezra Klein of The Washington Post called it "the best article you'll see this year on American health care—why it's so expensive, why it's so poor, [and] what can be done."[7] The article was cited by Pres. Barack Obama during Obama's attempt to get health care reform legislation passed by the United States Congress. The article "made waves"[8] and according to Senator Ron Wyden, the article "affected [Obama's] thinking dramatically", and was shown to a group of senators by Obama, who said, "This is what we’ve got to fix."[9] 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.[10] Gawande donated the $20,000 to the Brigham and Women's Hospital Center for Surgery and Public Health.[11]

In addition to his popular writing, Gawande has published studies on topics including military surgery techniques and error in medicine, included in the New England Journal of Medicine. He is also the director of the World Health Organization's Global Patient Safety Challenge. His essays have appeared in The Best American Essays 2003, The Best American Science Writing 2002, The Best American Science Writing 2009 and Best American Science and Nature Writing 2011.


Gawande published his first book, Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science, in 2002. It was a National Book Award finalist, and has been published in over one hundred countries.[12]

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.[13]

Gawande released his third book, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, in 2009. It discusses the importance of organization and pre-planning (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.[14]

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End[15] was released in October 2014. It discusses end of life choices about assisted living and the effect of medical procedures on terminally ill people, and challenges many traditionally held notions about the role of medicine.

Awards and honors[edit]

In 2006, Gawande was named a MacArthur Fellow for his work investigating and articulating modern surgical practices and medical ethics.[16][17] In 2007, he became director of the World Health Organization's effort to reduce surgical deaths,[18] and in 2009 he was elected a Hastings Center Fellow.[19]

In 2004, he was named one of the 20 Most Influential South Asians by Newsweek.[20] In the 2010 Time 100, he was included (fifth place) in Thinkers Category.[21] Also in 2010, he was named by Foreign Policy magazine to its list of top global thinkers.[22]

In 2014 he presented the BBC's Reith Lectures, delivering a series of four talks titled The Future of Medicine. These were delivered in Boston, London, Edinburgh and Delhi.[1][23]

Personal life[edit]

Gawande lives in Newton, Massachusetts, with his wife, Kathleen Hobson, and their three children: Walker, Hattie, and Hunter. He enjoys reading.[24]


  1. ^ a b Dr Atul Gawande – 2014 Reith Lectures. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  2. ^ "Atul Gawande". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2015-11-25. 
  3. ^ Atul Gawande: 'If I haven't succeeded in making you itchy, disgusted or cry I haven't done my job', The Guardian
  4. ^ Humane Endeavor – Guernica
  5. ^ Former Policymaker Opts for Hands-On Health Care – International Herald Tribune
  6. ^ Atul Gawande (June 1, 2009). "The Cost Conundrum – What a Texas town can teach us about health care". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on June 10, 2011. Retrieved June 29, 2011. 
  7. ^ Ezra Klein (May 27, 2009). "Atul Gawande on American Health Care" The Washington Post Accessed August 3, 2011.
  8. ^ Bryant Furlow (October 2009). "US reimbursement systems encourage fraud and overutilisation". The Lancet Oncology 10 (10): 937–938. doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(09)70297-9. PMID 19810157. 
  9. ^ Health Care Spending Disparities Stir a Fight, Robert Pear, The New York Times, June 8, 2009
  10. ^ Lauren Hatch (March 2, 2010). "New Yorker Writer Gets $20,000 Check From Warren Buffett's Partner". Business Insider. Retrieved May 27, 2012. 
  11. ^ Shea, Danny (March 1, 2010). "Atul Gawande, New Yorker Writer: I Didn't Accept Warren Buffett's Partner's $20,000 Check". Huffington Post. 
  12. ^ Gawande, Atul. "About Atul Gawande". Retrieved May 31, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Book Review – Better: A surgeon’s notes on performance « The Beaver Medic". April 15, 2010. Retrieved May 27, 2012. 
  14. ^ accessed March 4, 2010.
  15. ^
  16. ^ MacArthur Fellows 2006. Atul Gawande
  17. ^ "Atul Gawande Named MacArthur Fellow". Press release by Brigham and Women's Hospital. September 19, 2006. Retrieved February 25, 2010. 
  18. ^ "Q&A with Atul Gawande, Part 2" H&HN. June 30, 2011. Retrieved July 7, 2011.
  19. ^ The Hastings Center Elects Eight New Fellows
  20. ^ "Power and Influence". Newsweek. March 22, 2004. Retrieved February 3, 2010. 
  21. ^ "The 2010 Time 100: Atul Gawande". April 29, 2010. 
  22. ^ "Foreign Policy Magazine"
  23. ^ Why Do Doctors Fail?The Reith Lectures, Dr Atul Gawande: The Future of Medicine Episode 1 of 4, BBC
  24. ^ "Atul Gawande: surgeon, health policy scholar, and writer". Harvard Magazine. Sep–Oct 2009. 

External links[edit]