- He is a surgeon, professor, entrepreneur, journalist, best-selling author and has been recognized as one of the influential global thinkers.
In keeping with his promise to abide by science in efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19, President-elect Joe Biden on Monday named Indian American medical expert Dr. Atul Gawande as one of the members of his Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board. Earlier, Biden named another Indian American, Dr. Vivek Murthy, former Surgeon General to co-chair the task force along with David Kessler, a former FDA commissioner and Dr. Marcella Núñez-Smith, associate professor of internal medicine, public health and management.
After his appointment, Dr. Gawande tweeted, “I’m grateful and honored to be asked to serve and to contribute to ending this pandemic. We have runaway spread right now. But I am confident we can get the virus under control, save lives, livelihoods, and bring people back together again.”
Dr. Gawande, 55, is a surgeon, professor, entrepreneur, journalist and best-selling author, who wears numerous hats in various organizations. He is a household name today thanks to his articles in prestigious medical journals and the New Yorker, and his best-seller books that are read widely around the world.
In 2018, Dr. Gawande was appointed chief executive of Haven, a healthcare venture jointly owned by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan, that is focused on improving health outcomes, patient experience and costs of care. Earlier this year he was named chairman of this venture.
He continues his work as a general and endocrine surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He is also a part time professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School. He is chairman of Lifebox, an international non-profit working to make surgery and anesthesia safer on a global scale.
Dr. Gawande is also the founder of a joint venture at the institutions where he is surgeon and professor, called Ariadne Labs, aimed at designing and scaling healthcare. Through Ariadne Labs, Dr. Gawande has worked with both state and federal agencies in the country as well as abroad including the WHO. It has helped improve outcomes in surgery, primary healthcare, childbirth, serious illness care, and most notably, in epidemics like H1N1, Ebola, the opioid crisis and Covid-19.
Since 1998 he has been working as Staff Writer for the New Yorker, covering medical issues. He has written four best-selling books: “Complications,” a finalist for the National Book Award, and has been published in over 100 countries; “Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance,” which was selected by Amazon.com as one of the top 10 books of 2007; “The Checklist Manifesto” in which he discusses the importance of organization and pre-planning both in surgery and in the larger world: and “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End,” which became a #1 New York bestseller. It discusses end of life choices about assisted living and the effect of medical procedures on medically ill people. This last book was based on his father’s experience before his demise and was the basis of a documentary for the PBS television series Frontline, broadcast in 2015.
In 2006, Dr. Gawande was the recipient of MacArthur Foundation’s Genius Grant. In 2010, he was named by Foreign Policy magazine to its list of top global thinkers.
Talking about his journey as a doctor, he said in an interview with Boston Magazine, “It’s almost a given that the children of two Indian immigrant doctors are expected to become doctors themselves…In many ways, I spent a lot of time trying to escape that,” he said.
Dr. Gawande was born on November 5, 1965, in Brooklyn, New York, to Maharashtrian immigrant parents. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and political science from Stanford University, where he met and married Kathleen Hobson. As a Rhodes scholar, he earned an MA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Oxford.
He graduated as Doctor of Medicine from Harvard Medical School in 1995 and earned a Master’s in Public Health from Harvard. He completed his surgical residency, again at Harvard, in 2003.
He had a brief brush with politics when he joined Al Gore’s 1988 presidential campaign and took a break from medical school and directed a committee of the Clinton Health Care Task Force.
Alpana Varma worked as a Research Assistant at the Delhi University and then as a journalist for over 10 years for several leading national dailies. After leaving India for Europe, she has been working as a teacher, translator and freelance writer and editor. She lived in Mexico briefly where she worked in intercultural communications. Currently she is based in Miami.