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Atul Gawande Named CEO of Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, JPMorgan Healthcare Initiative

Analysis  |  By Steven Porter  
   June 20, 2018

The companies' pick says he's 'thrilled' to be taking the helm of this initiative and looking forward to his continued work on 'scalable solutions.'

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase announced Wednesday morning that Dr. Atul Gawande will lead the companies' highly anticipated joint healthcare initiative as its chief executive officer.

Gawande is a surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital and a Harvard professor. He is also a journalist who has written four books on the New York Times bestseller list and whose work has appeared in The New Yorker.

"I'm thrilled to be named CEO of this healthcare initiative," Gawande said in a statement. "I have devoted my public health career to building scalable solutions for better healthcare delivery that are saving lives, reducing suffering, and eliminating wasteful spending both in the US and across the world. Now I have the backing of these remarkable organizations to pursue this mission with even greater impact for more than a million people, and in doing so incubate better models of care for all."

"This work will take time but must be done. The system is broken, and better is possible," Gawande added.

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said Gawande has what it takes to tackle the particularly challenging task of solving healthcare's most vexing problems for employees.

Related: When Retail Giants Invade Healthcare

"We said at the outset that the degree of difficulty is high and success is going to require an expert’s knowledge, a beginner’s mind, and a long-term orientation," Bezos said in the statement. "Atul embodies all three, and we’re starting strong as we move forward in this challenging and worthwhile endeavor."

  • Headquartered in Boston: Gawande won't have a long commute to his new position. The companies said their healthcare initiative, which will be free from profit-making motivations and limitations, will be headquartered in Boston.
  • Job begins next month: Gawande's official start date as CEO is less than three weeks away: July 9.
  • Switching roles at innovation lab: In 2012, Gawande and a team founded Ariadne Labs, an innovation center that works with U.S. health systems and international organizations to improve healthcare delivery. He will transition from its executive director to chairman when his successor is selected.
  • Still a surgeon and professor: In addition to practicing general and endocrine surgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Gawande is a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School. A hospital spokesperson tells HealthLeaders Media that Gawande will retain his posts as both a practicing surgeon and professor.
  • Well-wishes from Brigham Health: "I am thrilled for Atul and the support of the visionary leaders of these organizations, as this role will allow him to accelerate what has been his life’s work—building scalable solutions to improve health around the globe—and will amplify his voice exponentially," said Brigham Health President Betsy Nabel, MD, in a statement.
  • His noteworthy writings: Gawande's books include Complications, Better, The Checklist Manifesto, and Being Mortal. His most recent piece for The New Yorker was published earlier this month: "Curiosity and What Equality Really Means."
  • A pool of qualified candidates: "Talent and dedication were manifest among the many professionals we interviewed. All felt that better care can be delivered and that rising costs can be checked," said Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO, Warren Buffett. "Jamie, Jeff and I are confident that we have found in Atul the leader who will get this important job done."

Amid all the talk of Gawande's qualifications, JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon offered a reminder of the overarching objective.

"As employers and as leaders, addressing healthcare is one of the most important things we can do for our employees and their families, as well as for the communities where we all work and live," Dimon said in a statement. "Together, we have the talent and resources to make things better, and it is our responsibility to do so. We’re so grateful for the countless statements of support and offers to help and participate, and we’re so fortunate to have attracted such an extraordinary leader and innovator as Atul."


Steven Porter is an associate content manager and Strategy editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

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