Atul Gawande Biography
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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