Food for thought

January 5, 2008

Over the holidays I had the pleasure of gaping stretches of time just for reading! One of the books I completed was Atul Gawande’s newest book “Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance.” Dr. Gawande is a surgeon and an amazing writer. The premise of this book is (to paraphrase from an interview) as a whole most physicians are average, by the definition of average, and average in medicine is unacceptable as there are lives at stake. He looks at ways to refine performance in medicine to become Better. What he discovers makes a better physician strikes me as what that can make anyone better at what they do. He sums up his conclusions in two places. On page 226 of the hardcover he boils down achieving success to these three important traits:

  1. Aggressiveness
  2. Diligence
  3. Ingenuity

On page 251 he references a lecture he gave to graduating medical students on How to Become a Positive Deviant (ahead of the Bell Curve). Here he’s got 5 suggestions:

  1. Ask an unscripted question
  2. Don’t complain
  3. Count (or measure) something
  4. Write something
  5. Be willing to change

I recommend this book to clinicians and laypeople alike. His storytelling is engaging, eloquent and his perspective illuminating. Whether you want to be a better doctor or just become a better patient advocate for yourself or loved ones – the information in this book is fascinating and well told.


Atul Gawande

His latest New Yorker article “THE CHECKLIST” (more intriguing than it sounds

My favorite article of his (reprised in the book “Better”) “THE BELL CURVE”


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