Atul Gawande: atool ga-wan-day
Atul Gawande, a 2006 MacArthur
fellow, is a general surgeon at the
Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston
(where he completed his surgical residency in 2003),
a staff writer for The New Yorker
an assistant professor at Harvard
Medical School, and a frequent
contributor to The New England
Journal of Medicine. He lives with
his wife, Kathleen Hobson, and three children
(Walker, Hattie and Hunter) in Newton,
He is also Associate Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, Associate Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health, and Associate Director for the BWH Center for Surgery and Public Health. He has published research studies in areas ranging from surgical technique, to US military care for the wounded, to error and performance in medicine. And he is the director of the World Health Organization's Global Challenge for Safer Surgical Care.
He was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1965 to immigrant parents who were both physicians his father a urologist and his mother a pediatrician. He and his sister grew up in Athens, Ohio. Initially he resisted following in his parent's footsteps and instead wanted to be a musician: "I wanted to be a rock star. I played guitar and wrote songs and even had a couple of club shows. I was just terrible."
He received his B.A.S. from Stanford University; his M.A. (in politics, philosophy, and economics) from Oxford University; and his M.D. from Harvard Medical School; and M.P.H. from the Harvard School of Public Health. He served as a senior health policy advisor in the Clinton presidential campaign and White House from 1992 to 1993.
Attending Balliol College, Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, he considered becoming a philosopher until he realized he didn't have the knack for asking the right sort of philosophical questions, and so he went to medical school after all. "It turns out you can be a doctor and be almost anything," he says. "Even a writer." After Oxford he worked in a research laboratory and as an adviser to the Clinton administration on health policy before earning his M.D. in 1995.
He began contributing little pieces to Slate about 10 years ago, while still a resident. "Slate was perfect for me," he explains, "because it enabled me to fly under the radar. It was just like going through surgical residency. I did 30 columns for them, and it was like doing 30 gallbladders. Then I had to learn how to get comfortable with 4,000-word and then 8,000-word essays for The New Yorker."
He now feels that writing is the most important thing he does: "In some ways, it's harder than surgery. But I do think I've found a theme in trying to understand failure and what it means in the world we live in, and how we can improve at what we do."
His nonfiction writing has been selected to appear in the annual Best American Essays collection twice and in Best American Science Writing five of the last six years. His book Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science, was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2002 and is published in more than a hundred countries. He is editor of The Best American Science Writing 2006. His most recent book, Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance, was published in April 2007.
This biography was last updated on 02/04/2008.
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