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Amazon, Berkshire, JPMorgan Chase tap Gawande as CEO

by Thomas Dworetzky, Contributing Reporter | June 21, 2018
Business Affairs
Atul Gawande
Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase have tapped Dr. Atul Gawande to be CEO of their “Big 3” partnership on U.S. employee healthcare.

Gawande practices general and endocrine surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and is professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School – and is well known as a best-selling author and New Yorker magazine writer, and for his efforts in public health, especially through his health innovations center, Ariadne Labs.

His four New York Times bestsellers include: Complications, Better, The Checklist Manifesto, and Being Mortal.

While Gawande is a respected doctor, author and innovator, he has less big-healthcare management background than others considered for the position, according to The New York Times.

“He’s such a well-known health care luminary and keen observer, but this is a big leap,” Dr. Lisa Bielamowicz, a co-founder of consultancy Gist Healthcare, told the paper, adding that, “he hasn’t led a huge team or company.”

But the choice was not entirely surprising. When Gawande wrote his 2009 New Yorker magazine piece, “The Cost Conundrum,” which exposed excessive care covered by Medicare in McAllen, Texas, it sent a jolt through the health system – and got the attention of Berkshire's Charlie Munger, who sent the author $20,000 by way of thanks.

Gawande gave the money to Brigham and Women's Hospital, according to the Huffington Post.

He will take the reins of the new “Big 3” healthcare effort effective July 9, in Boston, where the new firm will operate “free from profit-making incentives and constraints,” the companies announced in a joint statement.

“I’m thrilled to be named CEO of this healthcare initiative,” said Gawande.

As a health innovator he is arguably best known for his large-scale implementation and test of the “checklist” in 2017.

Working on a five-year project with the South Carolina Hospital Association and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Ariadne Labs reported on the results of the trial in the Annals of Surgery.

The study, on the Safe Surgery South Carolina effort, found post-surgery death rates in the 14 hospitals that completed the program were 3.38 percent in 2010 (before surgery checklist use) and fell to 2.84 percent in 2013 after its implementation.

Mudi Ramesh

Not a traditional business leader

June 28, 2018 10:33

My first reaction when I heard the news about Dr. Atul Gawande being tapped as CEO of this 'Big 3' initiative was one of surprise. I am sure there were many that felt the same way. Here is a well-known surgeon, researcher and author with zero business experience being thrust in a crucial role of business leadership. But if we consider the charter of this new initiative, the choice makes a lot of sense. First and foremost, as this article points out, 'generating a profit and creating value to shareholders' is not the goal of this venture. This is not a company in the traditional sense. It's goal is 'better healthcare at lowest possible cost' for all the participants enrolled in their healthcare plan. There could be no other candidate better positioned than Dr. Gawande' to achieve this objective.

Our best wishes to Dr. Gawande. If this venture achieves good results over the next five years, it might mean a paradigm shift in healthcare delivery in this country.

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Gus Iversen

re: Not a traditional business leader

June 29, 2018 05:40

I agree, Mudi. As long we we're reinventing the wheel, might as well rethink what it takes to be a good CEO. We already know what doesn't work... maybe this will?

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