Atul Gawande, a surgeon who has written several highly regarded books on public health, has been awarded the 2014 Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science from The Rockefeller University. Gawande was honored at a ceremony in Rockefeller’s Caspary Auditorium in March.
The Lewis Thomas Prize was established in 1993 by the university’s Board of Trustees and honors “the rare individual who bridges the worlds of science and the humanities — whose voice and vision can tell us about science’s aesthetic and philosophical dimensions, providing not merely new information but cause for reflection, even revelation.” It was named after its first recipient, writer, educator and physician-scientist Lewis Thomas. Past recipients of the award include Oliver Sacks, Jared Diamond and E.O. Wilson.
Gawande practices general and endocrine surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and is a professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School and a professor in the department of health policy and management at the Harvard School of Public Health.
His book Complications, which was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2002, is a collection of stories about his experiences as a surgical resident. With a disarming style, Gawande details the sometimes alarming accounts of medical mishaps and miracles.
Better, which was selected as one of the 10 best books of 2007 by Amazon.com, and The Checklist Manifesto, published in 2009, are explorations of ways to improve patient outcomes, including how a simple checklist in the operating room can have profound effects on health. His books have all been New York Times bestsellers. He has also written for The New Yorker magazine since 1998.
“Through his books, Dr. Gawande achieves the ideal of the Lewis Thomas Prize, which is to write about science in a way that inspires others to think about it from a new perspective,” said Mike Young, vice president for academic affairs and head of the Laboratory of Genetics, who spoke at the award ceremony. “Dr. Gawande is not only changing the way we think about best practices in medicine, but also about the U.S. healthcare system.”
After earning his B.S. from Stanford University, Gawande received a master’s degree in philosophy, politics and economics from Balliol College at Oxford University, where he was Rhodes Scholar. He earned his M.D. from Harvard Medical School and his M.P.H. from the Harvard School of Public Health.
Gawande has been a senior adviser in the Department of Health and Human Services in the Clinton administration. He is executive director of Ariadne Labs, a joint venture of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard School of Public Health, and is co-founder and chairman of Lifebox, an international not-for-profit. He has received two National Magazine Awards, an Academy Health’s Impact Award, and a MacArthur Fellowship, and he has been named one of the world’s hundred most influential thinkers by Foreign Policy and TIME.