Atul Gawande on surgery, writing, Obamacare, and indie music by Panoply Media

I’ve wanted to do this interview for a long, long time.

Atul Gawande is a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He’s a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health. He is executive director of Ariadne Labs, a joint center for health systems innovation, and chairman of Lifebox, a nonprofit organization making surgery safer globally. He’s a New Yorker writer. He’s the author of some of my favorite books, including Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance and The Checklist Manifesto. He’s a MacArthur Genius.

Atul Gawande makes me feel like a slow, boring, unproductive person. What makes it worse is that he’s a helluva nice guy, too. And he knows more new music than I do.

There haven’t been many conversations on this podcast I’ve looked forward to more, or enjoyed as much. Among many other things, we talked about:

– How Atul makes ti together all of the writing, large-scale research, and surgery he does
– His time working in Congress and in the White House
– His writing process and how it’s evolved since his early days writing for Slate
– Why he hates writing and likes being edited (and why I am the exact opposite)
– His thoughts on ignorance, ineptitude, why we fail at things, and what hand washing has to do with it
– How effective Medicaid coverage is in improving health outcomes
– The ways we need to more effectively deliver existing knowledge and technology rather than always focusing on the next big discovery
– What he thinks we’ve learned so far from Obamacare
– How Rivers Cuomo from Weezer has applied lessons from Atul’s writing to his music
– His work with the Clintons, Jim Cooper, and Al Gore and thoughts on their private versus public personas
– How all the different parts of his life — the writing, the surgery, the policy work — come together into one single engine for actually making change
– What new albums he thinks everyone should listen to

And so much more. Talking to Atul was a real pleasure. I hope you enjoy it too.


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