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Atul Gawande

The Dip that the novelist Michael Crichton was a Harvard Medical School graduate who did his post-doc work at Salk Institute. This week, I came across an interesting article from Harvard Magazine about Atul Gawande, a surgeon who is also a columnist for New Yorker and author of three best-selling books, Complications, Better, and The Checklist Manifesto, all of which are highly engaging.

“Gawande’s success as a writer makes perfect sense: he writes like a surgeon, including just the essential details, cutting away the fat to find what is relevant. There is one more similarity between medicine and journalism: they share a resemblance to detective work. An article begins with a question, as does a diagnosis. Through a strangely circuitous route, Gawande has arrived at a life in which diverse pursuits dovetail seamlessly.” — Elizabeth Gudrais, “The Unlikely Writer”, Harvard Magazine, September 2009
Some outstanding individuals seem to find it more natural for them to cross boundaries of disciplines. Atul Gawande, according to the article, graduated from Stanford in 1987 with a degree in biology and political science, and then he went off to Oxford to study philosophy. After several years working for politicians in the area of health and social policy, he returns to study at Harvard Medical School in 1994. He also receives a master’s degree ins health policy from Harvard School of Public Health. Then his life as a surgeon starts in 2003.
” He wanted to be in a supportive environment for his “unusual mix” of surgery, public health, teaching, and writing.” — Ibid.
The article also writes about how busy he can be with so many things to do, including 250+ operations per year as well as speeches, interviews, and writings.
His week proceeds according to a carefully calibrated schedule. Mondays are for pre-operative or post-operative consultations with patients. Tuesdays are for meetings, of his research team and otherwise (and frequently, speaking engagements). He spends Thursdays in the OR; Fridays he works on his writing. Wednesdays are for the overflow, and some writing time if he’s lucky. — Ibid.
Yet he typically leaves the hospital at 7 PM to have dinner with his family. He also finds time to read before going to bed. Now I have to wonder not whether I possess the capabilities to handle such various responsibilities but whether I am willing to live such a fast-paced life. A very interesting read. Recommended.]]>

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