- Dr. Atul Gawande was announced on Wednesday as the new CEO of the JPMorgan-Amazon-Berkshire Hathaway joint healthcare venture.
- Gawande boasts an impressive resume that includes experience both in medicine and policy.
- Gawande has been openly critical about problems within the healthcare system through his various written works.
The healthcare venture that JPMorgan, Amazon, and Berkshire Hathaway announced in January finally has a CEO.
On Wednesday the trio said they’d selected Dr. Atul Gawande, a surgeon, writer, and professor, as the new chief executive of the Boston-based venture.
While the pick may have been a surprise to some healthcare industry watchers, Gawande has been on the radar of Berkshire Hathaway for a while now.
Back in 2009, Berkshire Hathaway vice chairman Charlie Munger sent Gawande a $US20,000 check for an article he’d written in The New Yorker examining the healthcare differences between two Texas neighbourhoods, because of its significant social impact. The article put Gawande on the map, and he ultimately donated the check to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Here’s what to know about Gawande, and what his appointment means for the direction the health venture may take.
Gawande boasts an impressive resume. The son of two Indian surgeons, he grew up in Athens, Ohio. Gawande went on to complete his undergraduate degree at Stanford University in 1987. He then earned his masters in philosophy from Oxford University in 1989, his MD from Harvard Medical School in 1995 and his MPH from Harvard School of Public Health in 1999.
Nowadays, he’s got a lot on his plate. A general and endocrine surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Gawande is also the director of Ariadne Labs, chair of healthcare NGO Lifebox, and a professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School and at Harvard’s school of public health.
He’s also a prolific writer on the side. He has won in addition to his MacArthur Fellowship, two National Magazine Awards. He’s been a staff writer for the New Yorker since 1998 and contributes to the Notes of a Surgeon Column for the New England Journal of Medicine.
Gawande has done extensive research into improving surgical errors and comments frequently on the state of healthcare and his thoughts into new developments in the field.
With Ariadne Labs and Lifebox, Gawande has dipped his toes into innovation in health systems. Ariadne is a joint center between Brigham and Harvard dedicated to creating health solutions for critical moments in people’s lives including childbirth, surgery and serious illness care. Their work includes BetterBirth, which focuses on research to help increase facility-based care for mothers during childbirth, and a checklist to help doctors decrease errors during surgery. Lifebox is a non-profit organisation focused on making surgery safer worldwide.
What the choice means for the direction the health venture takes
Though there have been few details about what the new healthcare venture might look like, its direction may start to take shape now that there’s a CEO at the helm.
Gawande has long been an advocate for making the system smarter and more efficient. In an interview with Vox in 2016 about his book, “The Checklist Manifesto,” Gawande said that “in surgery, more than half of the deaths and major complications that occurred were from failure to deliver on existing knowledge on how to do better.” He also said that the healthcare system is “incredibly wasteful and disorganized.”
Gawande attributes a lot of accountability to actors within the healthcare system, such as the doctor’s role in contributing to the opioid crisis. He’s a believer in the contribution of small acts in bettering the quality of the entire system, and is openly critical about the GOP’s new health bill.