Dr Atul Gawande, who has been called a ‘national sage’ and the ‘Pied Piper’ of the healthcare world by Forbes was recently chosen by Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffet, JP Morgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos together to head their new healthcare non-profit.
This Indian-origin doctor will lead a mission founded by the corporate tycoons, which involves figuring out ways to improve a broken, and often inefficient system, in order to deliver low-cost and high-quality healthcare in America.
The 52-year old doctor is thrilled with the appointment and will take over as the CEO of the company, which is headquartered in Boston, from July 9. He told Business Today that he has devoted his public health career to building scalable solutions for better healthcare delivery, to save lives, reduce suffering and eliminate wasteful spending in the US and across the world.
Here are ten things to know about him.
1. He was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Indian parents, who are both doctors themselves.
2. He has a distinguished academic background that includes many stellar degrees. An undergraduate degree in biology and political science, from Stanford, an MA in philosophy, politics and economics (PPE) from Balliol College, Oxford, a Doctor of Medicine from Harvard Medical School, and a Master of Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health.
3. He practices general and endocrine surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and is a Professor at the Harvard TT Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School. He is the founding Executive Director of a health systems innovation centre called Ariadne Labs and is also is a staff writer for The New Yorker. He has also authored four New York Times bestsellers.
4. In fact, it was a 2009 New Yorker article, ‘The Cost Conundrum’, authored by Gawande, which put him in prominence. The article dealt with why health care was vastly more expensive in some parts of the US than others, with no difference in the sickness or health of the people getting it.
5. A humble man, his essays are known for being compelling and extremely honest. He does not shy away from speaking about his own shortcomings, and two of his most famous books—Being Mortal and The Checklist Manifesto—come from the challenging experiences he has faced as a surgeon.
6. During his undergraduate days, he was a volunteer for Gary Hart’s campaign, and after graduating, joined Al Gore’s 1998 presidential campaign. He has also worked as healthcare researcher for Rep. Jim Cooper and entered medical school in 1990, only to leave after two years to become Bill Clinton’s healthcare lieutenant during the 1992 campaign. He returned to medical school in 1993 and earned his degree in 1995.
7. He has a list of awards to his credit. In 2006, he was named a MacArthur Fellow, for his work in investigating and articulating modern surgical practices and medical ethics. He also served as director of the WHO’s effort to reduce surgical deaths.
8. In 2004, he was named one of the 20 most influential South Asians, by Newsweek, in 2010’s Time 100; he was 5th in the Thinkers Category. That same year, Foreign Policy magazine named him in its list of top global thinkers.
9. He has won 2 National Magazine Awards, namely the Academy Health’s Impact Award for highest research impact on healthcare, as well as the Lewis Thomas Prize for writing about science.
10. He has always wanted to fix the healthcare system and told Business Today, which he has the backing of remarkable organisations to pursue his mission with even more impact, for more than a million people, to incubate better models of care for all. He said the work might take time, but it must be done, and that the system is broken, and better is possible.
It is little wonder, that Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and the other business leaders have unanimously backed Dr Gawande.
We wish him all the best in his endeavours, in helping the employees of Amazon, JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)