MacArthur Fellows Program

Atul Gawande

Surgeon and Author | Class of 2006

Applying a critical eye and fresh perspective to modern surgical practice, articulating its realities, complexities, and challenges, in the interest of improving outcomes and saving lives.

Surgeon and Author
Harvard Medical School / Brigham & Women's Hospital
Boston, Massachusetts
40 at time of award
Published September 1, 2006

About Atul's Work

Atul Gawande is a surgeon and author who applies a critical eye to modern surgical practice, articulating its realities, complexities, and challenges. His book, Complications (2002), illuminates the concerns and problems faced by the surgeon-in-training with insight and compassion. In articles published in professional journals and mainstream periodicals, Gawande scrutinizes the culture, protocol, and technology of modern medical practice from the perspective of a dedicated and empathetic professional. In all his published work, he brings fresh and unique perspective, clarity, and intuition to the field. Recognizing the reality of human failures in an imperfect craft, Gawande is equally energetic and imaginative in the identification of practical changes and solutions. Among his innovations are bar codes to prevent surgeons from inadvertently leaving sponges and instruments in patients and a simple score of one to ten indicating the likelihood of complications. Through initiatives at the Center for Surgery and Public Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, newly established to study and improve surgical safety here and abroad, Gawande is giving leadership to the identification of numerous other bold enhancements to surgical protocol that will both improve practice and save lives.


Atul Gawande received a B.A.S. (1987) from Stanford University, an M.A. (1989) from the University of Oxford, an M.D. (1995) from Harvard Medical School, and an M.P.H. (1999) from Harvard School of Public Health. Since 2003, he has been an assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at Harvard Medical School and a surgeon in the Division of General and Gastrointestinal Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Since 2004, he has also served as an assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Harvard School of Public Health and as assistant director of the Center for Surgery and Public Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Gawande is a staff writer for the New Yorker and writes the “Notes of a Surgeon” column for the New England Journal of Medicine.

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Please credit: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

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