Our Humanity Is Defined By How We Treat the Sick


Photograph by David Yellen

39. Atul Gawande

Surgeon and researcher, Brigham & Women’s Hospital

Surgeon, writer, academic, advocate—whatever role he finds himself in, Atul Gawande is among the most influential and lucid voices in healthcare. That’s a heavy load to shoulder in Boston, which has the highest density of physicians in the country.

“If we can’t do it in Boston—if we cannot set the new standard for what the future of healthcare is here—then where will we be doing it?” Gawande asks. Should you doubt his sway, consider the surgical checklist, which his team pioneered across the campuses of Longwood: It’s now an international standard of care that’s been adopted by the World Health Organization.

Gawande’s Ariadne Labs, a nonprofit housed between the Harvard School of Public Health and the Brigham, continues to strive for safer surgeries, while also improving practices around childbirth and end-of-life care.

“Ariadne Labs is doing pioneering work to improve the healthcare system both here and around the world,” says Andrew Dreyfus, president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, which partially funds Ariadne Labs’ research. “Atul’s ability to translate these complex medical and safety ideas into language that both the public and health professionals understand and respect has made as much of a difference as the tools themselves.”

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