Atul Gawande

Atul Gawande
Atul-Gawande (cropped).jpg
Born (1965-11-05) November 5, 1965
EducationStanford University (BA, BS)
Balliol College, Oxford (MA)
Harvard University (MD, MPH)
Scientific career
FieldsSurgery, Journalism, Public health, Healthcare
InstitutionsHaven Healthcare, CEO
Harvard Medical School
Brigham and Women's Hospital

Atul 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 whilst the organisation 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.

Early years and education

Gawande was born on November 5, 1965,[1] in Brooklyn, New York, to Marathi Indian immigrants to the United States, both doctors.[2] His family soon moved to Athens, Ohio, where he and his sister grew up, and he graduated from Athens High School in 1983.[3]

Gawande earned a bachelor's degree in biology and political science from Stanford University in 1987.[4] As a Rhodes Scholar, he earned an M.A. in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) from Balliol College, Oxford in 1989.[1] 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.[5] He completed his general surgical residency training, again at Harvard, at the Brigham and Women's Hospital, in 2003.[1]

Political advocacy

As an undergraduate, Gawande was a volunteer for Gary Hart's campaign.[6] After graduating, he joined Al Gore's 1988 presidential campaign.[7] He worked 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.[8] Gawande entered medical school in 1990 – leaving after two years to become Bill Clinton's healthcare lieutenant during the 1992 campaign.[7]

Public service

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 Health Care Task Force, supervising 75 people and defined the benefits packages for Americans and subsidies and requirements for employers.[9] 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."[10]

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 centre of patients' care."[11]


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.[12]

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.[13]

The article "made waves" by highlighting the issue, according to Bryant Furlow in Lancet Oncology.[14] 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."[15] 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.[16] Gawande returned the check and was subsequently sent a new check for $40,000. Gawande donated the $40,000 to the Brigham and Women's Hospital Center for Surgery and Public Health, where he had been a resident.[17]

In 2012, he gave the TED talk "How Do We Heal Medicine?" which has been viewed more than 2 million times.[18]


External video
video icon Presentation by Gawande on Complications, May 6, 2002, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Gawande on Better, April 12, 2007, C-SPAN
video icon Washington Journal interview with Gawande on The Checklist Manifesto, January 7, 2010, C-SPAN
video icon After Words interview with Gawande on Being Mortal, October 10, 2014, C-SPAN

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.[1] It was a National Book Award finalist.[1]

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.[19]

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.[20]

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 about 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" and was first broadcast on February 10, 2015.[21][22]

Later career

Gawande chairs Lifebox, a non-profit founded in 2011 which provides training and equipment for safer surgery.[23][24]

In June 2018, he was named the CEO for the new, Boston-based company, Haven Healthcare, formed by billionaire investor Warren Buffett, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.[25] He stepped down from the position in May 2020, remaining as executive chairman while the organization sought a new CEO.[26] In January 2021, Haven announced that it was to cease operations. According to CNBC, sources associated with the company claimed that "while the firm came up with ideas, each of the three founding companies executed their own projects separately with their own employees, obviating the need for the joint venture to begin with."[27]

On November 9, 2020 he was named a member of President-elect Joe Biden's COVID-19 Advisory Board.[28]

On July 13, 2021, President Biden announced his intention of nominating Gawande to the post of Assistant Administrator of U.S. AID for the Bureau of Global Health.[29]

Awards and honors

In 2004, Gawande was selected as one of the "20 Most Influential South Asians" by Newsweek.[30] In 2006, he was named a MacArthur Fellow for his work investigating and articulating modern surgical practices and medical ethics.[31] In 2007, he became director of the World Health Organization's effort to reduce surgical deaths,[32] and in 2009 he was elected a Hastings Center Fellow.[33]

In the 2010 Time 100, he was included, in fifth place in the "Thinkers" category.[34] The same year, he was he was included by Foreign Policy magazine on its list of top global thinkers.[35] He was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 2012.[36] In 2014, he presented the BBC's annual radio Reith Lectures, delivering a series of four talks titled The Future of Medicine. These were delivered in Boston, London, Edinburgh and Delhi.[37][38] Also that year, he won the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science.[39] In November 2016, he was one of three recipients of the Massachusetts Governor's Award in the Humanities for his contributions to improving civic life in Massachusetts.[40]


  1. ^ a b c d e Exum, Kaitlen J. (2008). Gawande, Atul. Current Biography Yearbook 2005. HW Wilson. pp. 187–189. ISBN 978-0824210564.
  2. ^ "Atul Gawande on the Secrets of a Puzzle-Filled Career". Medscape. Archived from the original on May 19, 2020. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
  3. ^ "AHS alum a national player in medical arena". The Athens NEWS. November 22, 1999. Archived from the original on January 22, 2020. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
  4. ^ "Accomplished Alumni – School of Humanities and Sciences". Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences. Archived from the original on September 11, 2016. Retrieved December 8, 2015.
  5. ^ "Home | Atul Gawande | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health". Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. Archived from the original on May 19, 2020. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
  6. ^ Gudrais, Elizabeth (October 2009). "The Unlikely Writer". Harvard Magazine. Retrieved July 2, 2021.
  7. ^ a b "Humane Endeavor". Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics. November 17, 2014. Archived from the original on December 20, 2014. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  8. ^ "Cooperman". The New Republic. Vol. 209 no. 21. Washington. November 22, 1993. p. 11.
  9. ^ Horvitz, Paul F. (May 30, 1994). "Former Policymaker Opts for Hands-On Health Care". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on January 21, 2010. Retrieved June 20, 2018.
  10. ^ Diamond, Dan. "Pulse Check: Atul Gawande goes to Washington (again)". Politico. Archived from the original on June 25, 2021. Retrieved November 27, 2020.
  11. ^ "WHO's patient-safety checklist for surgery". The Lancet. 372 (9632): 1. July 5, 2008. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(08)60964-2. PMID 18603137. S2CID 28767717.
  12. ^ Sandhu, Sukhdev (October 11, 2014). "Atul Gawande: 'If I haven't succeeded in making you itchy, disgusted or cry I haven't done my job". The Guardian. Retrieved July 2, 2021.
  13. ^ "The Cost Conundrum". The New Yorker. May 25, 2009. Archived from the original on October 4, 2019. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
  14. ^ 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. ISSN 1470-2045. PMID 19810157.
  15. ^ Pear, Robert (June 8, 2009). "Health Care Spending Disparities Stir a Fight". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on May 25, 2017. Retrieved December 6, 2015.
  16. ^ Hatch, Lauren (March 2, 2010). "New Yorker Writer Gets $20,000 Check From Warren Buffett's Partner". Business Insider. Archived from the original on May 18, 2020. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
  17. ^ "Atul Gawande, a surgeon injecting humanity into US healthcare". Archived from the original on June 23, 2018. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
  18. ^ "How do we heal medicine?". TED (conference). Archived from the original on August 8, 2019. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
  19. ^ Chen, Pauline W. (April 22, 2007). "Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance – Atul Gawande – Books – Review". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 20, 2018. Retrieved March 23, 2018.
  20. ^ "Hardcover Nonfiction Books – Best Sellers". The New York Times. March 7, 2010. Archived from the original on March 22, 2016. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
  21. ^ Fink, Sheri (November 6, 2014). "Atul Gawande's 'Being Mortal'". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 15, 2019. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
  22. ^ "Being Mortal". Archived from the original on October 3, 2019. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
  23. ^ LaVito, Angelica (July 9, 2018). "Dr. Atul Gawande to start as CEO of Buffett, Bezos and Dimon's health-care venture". CNBC. Retrieved July 3, 2021.
  24. ^ Feinmann, Jane (2011). "Pulse oximeters for all". BMJ. 343: d8085. doi:10.1136/bmj.d8085. PMID 22171350. S2CID 206894388.
  25. ^ "Bezos, Buffett, Dimon health venture will be based in Boston". Boston Globe. June 20, 2018. Archived from the original on November 22, 2018. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
  26. ^ Reuter, Elise (May 13, 2020). "Gawande steps down as CEO of Haven, underscoring how hard it is to change healthcare". MedCity News. Retrieved June 27, 2021.
  27. ^ Son, Hugh (January 4, 2021). "Haven venture disbanding after 3 years". CNBC. Retrieved July 2, 2021.
  28. ^ Mucha, Sarah (November 9, 2020). "Biden transition team announces coronavirus advisers, including whistleblower Rick Bright". CNN. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  29. ^ "President Biden Announces 11 Key Nominations". The White House. July 13, 2021. Retrieved July 13, 2021.
  30. ^ "Power and Influence". Newsweek. March 21, 2004. Archived from the original on May 19, 2020. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
  31. ^ "Atul Gawande – MacArthur Foundation". Archived from the original on December 8, 2015. Retrieved December 6, 2015.
  32. ^ "Q&A with Atul Gawande, Part 2" Archived March 20, 2012, at the Wayback Machine H&HN. June 30, 2011. Retrieved July 7, 2011.
  33. ^ {{cite web|title=The Hastings Center Annual Report 2009|url= |website=The Hastings Center |year-2009 |access-date=18 September 2021 }
  34. ^ Daschle, Tom (April 29, 2010). "The 2010 Time 100: Atul Gawande". Archived from the original on May 9, 2010. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
  35. ^ Swift, Andrew (November 28, 2010). "The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers". Foreign Policy. Archived from the original on November 19, 2014. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
  36. ^ "APS Member History". American Philosophical Society. Archived from the original on June 25, 2021. Retrieved March 19, 2021.
  37. ^ Dr Atul Gawande – 2014 Reith Lectures. Archived October 15, 2014, at the Wayback Machine BBC Radio 4. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  38. ^ "Why Do Doctors Fail?, Dr Atul Gawande: The Future of Medicine, The Reith Lectures – BBC Radio 4". BBC. Archived from the original on December 2, 2014. Retrieved December 6, 2015.
  39. ^ "Surgeon and writer Atul Gawande awarded Lewis Thomas Prize". Rockefeller Foundation. April 1, 2014. Archived from the original on May 18, 2020. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
  40. ^ "2016 Governor's Awards in the Humanities". Archived from the original on August 20, 2019. Retrieved December 22, 2016.

External links

Interviews and Talks

Media files used on this page

Atul-Gawande (cropped).jpg
Author/Creator: Amar Karodkar, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Atul Gawande,