Atul Gawande on surgery, writing, health policy—and more

Surgeon, writer, and public health researcher Atul Gawande recently spoke on “The Ezra Klein Show,” a podcast on Vox, about how all the different parts of his work come together into one single engine for making change.

Gawande is a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH); a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; executive director of Ariadne Labs, a joint center for health systems innovation at BWH and Harvard Chan; a staff writer at The New Yorker; and the author of several bestselling books, including Complications, Better, The Checklist Manifesto, and Being Mortal.

In the August 2, 2016 interview with Klein, Gawande also spoke about his time working in Congress and the White House in the late 1980s and early 1990s; his writing process and how it’s evolved; Medicaid’s effectiveness; what we’ve learned so far from Obamacare; and many more topics.

Also, a recent article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review featured the efforts of Ariadne Labs in improving outcomes by getting health care organizations to adopt proven interventions. The article gave an overview of Ariadne’s projects, including the BetterBirth Program, aimed at improving neonatal care in low- and middle-income countries; the Serious Illness Care Program, which helps seriously ill patients choose how they’re cared for at the end of life; and the Safe Surgery Program, aimed at reducing surgical errors through use of a checklist.

Gawande was also quoted in an August 8 Wall Street Journal article about a Harvard program that coaches new medical residents to ask veteran doctors for help more often, and for older doctors to offer that help more readily, in order to reduce medical errors. Under the program, four Harvard Medical School-affiliated hospitals, including BWH, are now requiring medical residents to carry a pocket card listing 15 situations that require prompt notification or approval of a senior colleague—such as a patient’s transfer to the intensive-care unit.

The new program helps make it clear to residents “that it’s OK to call even when they think it is dumb to call,” said Gawande.

Listen to Ezra Klein’s interview with Atul Gawande

Read the Stanford Social Innovation Review article: The “Better” Bet

Read the Wall Street Journal article: A Better Safety Net for Young Doctors