The Reading Committee chose Better, by Dr. Atul Gawande for the First Pages Program.

About the Book

In his book Better, The New York Times bestselling author of Complications examines, in riveting accounts of medical failure and triumph, how success is achieved in a complex and risk-filled profession. The struggle to perform well is universal: each one of us faces fatigue, limited resources, and imperfect abilities in whatever we do. But nowhere is this drive to do better more important than in medicine, where lives are on the line with every decision. In his new book, Atul Gawande explores how doctors strive to close the gap between best intentions and best performance in the face of obstacles that sometimes seem insurmountable.

Gawande’s gripping stories of diligence, ingenuity, and what it means to do right by people take us to battlefield surgical tents in Iraq, to labor and delivery rooms in Boston, to a polio outbreak in India, and to malpractice courtrooms around the country. He discusses the ethical dilemmas of doctors’ participation in lethal injections, examines the influence of money on modern medicine, and recounts the astoundingly contentious history of hand washing. And as in all his writing, Gawande gives us an inside look at his own life as a practicing surgeon, offering a searingly honest firsthand account of work in a field where mistakes are both unavoidable and unthinkable.

At once unflinching and compassionate, Better is an exhilarating journey narrated by “arguably the best nonfiction doctor-writer around” (Salon). Gawande’s investigation into medical professionals and how they progress from merely good to great provides rare insight into the elements of success, illuminating every area of human endeavor.

 

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About the Author

A surgeon and a writer, Atul Gawande is a staff member of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and the New Yorker magazine. He received his B.A.S. from Stanford University, M.A. (in politics, philosophy, and economics) from Oxford University, M.D. from Harvard Medical School, and M.P.H. from the Harvard School of Public Health. He served as a senior health policy advisor in the Clinton presidential campaign and White House from 1992 to 1993. Since 1998, he has been a staff writer for the New Yorker magazine. In 2003, he completed his surgical residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, and joined the faculty as a general and endocrine surgeon.

He is also Associate Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School and Associate Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health. He has published research studies in areas ranging from surgical technique, to US military care for the wounded, to error and performance in medicine. He is the director of the World Health Organization’s Global Challenge for Safer Surgical Care.

In 2006, he received the MacArthur Award for his research and writing. His book Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2002 and is published in more than a hundred countries. He was editor of The Best American Science Writing 2006. His book, Better: a Surgeon’s Notes on Performance was one of Amazon.com’s ten best books of 2007. His newest book, The Checklist Manifesto, is a New York Times bestseller. He also won the 2010 National Magazine Award for Public Interest writing for his New Yorker article, ‘The Cost Conundrum.’ He and his wife and three children live outside Boston.

 

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