Gawande, Atul 1965- (Atul A. Gawande)

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Gawande, Atul 1965- (Atul A. Gawande)


Born November 5, 1965; in Brooklyn, NY; son of Atmaram (a physician) and Sushila (a physician) Gawande; married Kathleen Hobson, November 28, 1992; children: three. Education: Stanford University, B.A.S., 1987; Balliol College, Oxford, M.A., 1989; Harvard Medical School, M.D., 1995; Harvard School of Public Health, M.P.H., 1999.


Home—Newton, MA. Office—Department of Health Policy and Management, Kresge Bldg., Rm. 400, 677 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02115; Brigham and Women's Hospital, Division of General and Gastrointestinal Surgery, 75 Francis St., ASBII-3rd Fl., Boston, MA. E-mail—[email protected]


Surgeon and writer. Brigham and Women's Hospital, general and endocrine surgeon. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, teaching assistant, 1991, research assistant, 1991-92, assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health; New Yorker, staff writer, 1998—. Clinton-Gore Campaign, health and social policy adviser, 1992; Clinton's Presidential Transition Team, deputy director for health policy, 1992-93; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, senior advisor to assistant secretary, beginning 1993.


National Book Award finalist, for A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science; John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation fellow, 2006; John P. McGovern Award Lectureship, Medical Library Association, 2006.


Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science, Metropolis (New York, NY), 2002.

(Editor and selector) The Best American Science Writing 2006, HarperPerennial (New York, NY), 2006.

Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance, Metropolitan (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to books and anthologies, including The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2000, The Best American Essays 2002, and In Sickness and in Health; contributor to periodicals, including Slate, American Journal of Surgery, Annals of Internal Medicine, and Health Affairs; author of "Notes of a Surgeon" column for the New England Journal of Medicine.


American author Atul Gawande utilized his experiences as a medical resident when writing his debut book, Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science. The critically lauded effort is a collection of Gawande's essays, which detail his observations about the state of medical science in America.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Gawande has made a name for himself in several fields. Before beginning his medical residency at a Boston hospital, Gawande completed an exemplary academic career as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. He has also served in the political arena, first as an advisor to former president Bill Clinton, and, beginning in 1993, as a senior advisor for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Gawande used his medical and political experiences while writing articles for numerous publications and periodicals, which eventually led to him becoming a staff writer on medicine and science for the New Yorker. His book, which Time contributor Lev Grossman called "riveting," is both a memoir of Gawande's experiences in the medical profession and a critical look at how surgeons are trained in America. The book's main theme is that surgeons often make mistakes because they lack the necessary training to perform certain surgeries. In a 2002 interview with U.S. News & World Report reporter Linda Kulman, Gawande provided some insight into the problems that he addresses in his book. "Science and technology move so fast you have to learn on the fly or what you're doing becomes outdated. The way we learn is to do things once or twice with some supervision. Then it's time to give it a try on someone," he said. "We want perfection without practice, yet everyone is harmed if no one is trained for the future."

Numerous literary critics lauded Complications for its honest yet compassionate look at the medical profession. For example, a contributor to Publishers Weekly called the book a "distinguished debut." In the book's thirteen essays, some of which had previously appeared in periodicals, Gawande examines a number of issues faced by medical professionals. According to William Beatty of Booklist, Gawande does so in a "smooth, engaging style." In the book, Gawande describes his profession as an "enterprise of constantly changing knowledge, uncertain information, fallible individuals, and at the same time lives on the line." In several of the essays, Gawande probes the prevailing ethics of medicine, and criticizes doctors and medical organizations for failing to police themselves properly. For example, in the book's first essay, Gawande describes numerous errors he has personally witnessed in the operating room, which he blames on a number of factors, including the inexperience of younger doctors and burnout or depression of veteran physicians. In other essays, he delves into how the human psyche often affects how a doctor treats a patient.

While he is often critical, Gawande is also very sympathetic to the plight of medical professionals, who often deal with life-or-death situations. "Good doctoring is all about making the most of the hand you're dealt," he writes in the book. Critic Barron H. Lerner, who reviewed the book for the Nation, commented that Gawande is able to get his points across in a clear manner. "He is a deft writer, telling compelling stories that weave together medical events, his personal feelings and answers to questions that readers are surely pondering," Lerner wrote. Other critics had similar opinions of the book. "Complications impresses for its truth and authenticity, virtues that it owes to its author being as much [a] forceful writer as [an] uncompromising chronicler," wrote F. Gonzalez-Crussi in the New York Times.

Gawande is also the editor of Best American Science Writing 2006. The volume includes a wide selection of twenty-one writings, from a research paper on yawning to mainstream journalism stories and essays, which cover diverse topics such as a rare neurological disorder, the avian flu, and California's redwood trees. Other essays include one by an author looking for a good hearing aid so he can listen to classical music, and another about how story telling may have been an important part of human evolution. A contributor to Science News commented that the author notes that good science writing is "‘cool,’ in that it makes scientific concepts comprehensible to scientists and nonscientists alike." A Publishers Weekly contributor remarked: "The diversity and readability of Gawande's selections are very cool indeed." Gilbert Taylor wrote in Booklist that the "writing [in the anthology] is both lively and humorous."



Gawande, Atul, Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science, Metropolis (New York, NY), 2002.


American Scientist, May, 2002, review of Complications, p. 269.

Booklist, March 1, 2002, William Beatty, review of Complications, p. 1075; September 1, 2006, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Best American Science Writing 2006, p. 30.

Computers in Libraries, July-August, 2006, "Medical Library Association," mention of author award, p. 63.

Entertainment Weekly, April 26, 2002, review of Complications, p. 140.

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2002, review of Complications, pp. 158-159.

Nation, May 6, 2002, Barron H. Lerner, review of Complications, p. 35.

New York Times, April 7, 2002, F. Gonzalez-Crussi, review of Complications, section 7, p. 10.

Publishers Weekly, February 25, 2002, review of Complications, p. 50; July 24, 2006, review of The Best American Science Writing 2006, p. 48.

Science News, September 9, 2006, review of The Best American Science Writing 2006, p. 175.

Time, April 15, 2002, Lev Grossman, review of Complications, p. 72.

US News & World Report, April 15, 2002, Linda Kulman, review of Complications, p. 76.


Atul Gawande Home Page, (April 20, 2007).

Harvard School of Public Health Web site, (March 9, 2007), faculty profile of author., (September 19, 2006), Darshan Malhotra, "NRI Dr. Atul Gawande Wins 2006 ‘Genius’ Award in US."