The Hindu Explains: From Jammu and Kashmir's ceasefire to Tamil Nadu protests

Who is Atul Gawande?

Dr. Atul Gawande.

Dr. Atul Gawande.   | Photo Credit: Paul Noronha

Doctors turning into legal drug dealers is easy in the U.S. where the medical profession and industry are overwhelmingly market-dictated. The U.S. spends twice as much per capita as other developed countries on healthcare, though for far worse outcomes. Not only that Atul Gawande did not take the beaten path, he immersed himself in trying to change the course of healthcare in the U.S. and around the world. “I have devoted my public health career to building scalable solutions for better healthcare delivery that are saving lives, reducing suffering, and eliminating wasteful spending in the U.S. and across the world,” he said, after being appointed CEO of a healthcare venture formed by Amazon, J.P. Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway to pull back rising costs.

What informed the choice?

Surgeon, thinker, professor and author, Dr. Gawande has been engaged with questions that are material and moral, and ethical dilemmas before a medical practitioner. He straddles the diverse worlds of medicine, philosophy and political science, juggling questions literally of life and death, on a scale that lesser mortals could only dream of. One of his many best-sellers is Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. He is not giving up the several hats he already wears. He is a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, the Samuel O. Thier Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, executive director of Ariadne Labs, a joint centre for health systems innovation, and chairman of Lifebox, a nonprofit that works on reducing deaths in surgery globally. Besides the series of best-selling books, he writes for The New Yorker.

Why are his views important?

Dr. Gawande has worked closely with Democratic politicians Al Gore and Bill Clinton on health policy and his writings deeply influenced Barack Obama’s attempts to overhaul the American healthcare system. “...different people get astonishingly different deals. That disparity is having a corrosive effect on how we view our country, our government, and one another,” he wrote in an article in The New Yorker about American healthcare. “...it’s really about understanding that all lives have equal value.” Despite the introduction of Obamacare, American healthcare system is sliding and hence the new venture, backed by three companies and their larger-than-life CEOs, is a cause for some hype. Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos have not announced any details. The company does not even have a name, but it will oversee health coverage for 1.2 million employees of the companies and their families.

How will it help?

Dr. Gawande, 52, has not been vocal about his new job that starts on July 9. “We are going to come up with a name — it’s one of my first jobs,” he joked at the Aspen Ideas Festival last week. “The largest concept here is I get to have a million patients that I as a doctor get to add to my responsibility… And my job to them is to figure out ways that we are going to drive better outcomes, better satisfaction with care and better cost efficiency with new models that can be incubated for all.” Born in New York to Maharashtrian parents, Dr. Gawande grew up in Ohio. “My parents tried hard to raise me as a traditional Hindu in rural Ohio and that did not work so well,” he wrote, after losing his father, also a doctor, in 2011. His father had wished that his ashes be scattered in Ohio, the ancestral village in Maharashtra and the Ganga. “But there was something about the ritual of the same thing that families have been going through for thousands of years and we were doing it. And you could almost feel the links of hands across generations,” he wrote about immersing the ashes in the Ganga in Varanasi.

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Feb 27, 2020 6:52:38 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/who-is-atul-gawande/article24301325.ece

Next Story