Atul Gawande

Last month, I had the privilege of speaking at commencement exercises for the health professional schools at Nova Southeastern University. It was a homecoming of sorts: I spent most of my childhood in South Florida, about fifteen miles from the campus. But a lot has changed. When I left in the late 1980s, the sports/concert arena where I spoke did not exist. Neither did the hockey team that plays there. As for NSU, I remember it as a small, relatively obscure school, with maybe a few thousand students overall and no significant presence in health care.

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Editor's Note: We'll be running the article recommendations of our friends at TNR Reader each afternoon on The Plank, just in time to print out or save for your commute home. Enjoy! Michael Bloomberg has a next act: He is going to be the mayor of the world.  NY Mag | 15 min (3, 804 words) The practice of medicine, writes Atul Gawande, is largely about failure. That's why nothing is more crucial than rescuing people after things go wrong.  The New Yorker | 9 min (2, 255 words) What is the best way to avoid a clash of civilizations with the Muslim world?

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 The Infinity of Lists: An Illustrated Essay By Umberto Eco Translated by Alastair McEwen (Rizzoli, 408 pp., $45) The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right By Atul Gawande (Metropolitan Books, 209 pp., $24.50) “Please direct your attention to the front of the cabin where the flight attendants are demonstrating safety procedures ... in the event of a water landing ...

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The Infinity of Lists: An Illustrated Essay By Umberto Eco Translated by Alastair McEwen (Rizzoli, 408 pp., $45) The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right By Atul Gawande (Metropolitan Books, 209 pp., $24.50) “Please direct your attention to the front of the cabin where the flight attendants are demonstrating safety procedures ... in the event of a water landing ...

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[Guest post by Jonathan Cohn] Advocates for health care reform (including yours truly) have frequently argued that it is possible to reduce the amount of care without reducing the quality--or, to put it more simply, that less care doesn't have to equal worse care. A story in today's New York Times may leave readers thinking that argument is bunk. It isn't.

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As some of you you may have noticed, I took a short vacation after President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed. It seems that Obama and his advisers didn't. With the ink on the presidential signature barely dry, administration officials announced that Don Berwick would be the president's choice to run the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Who's Berwick? And why is his impending appointment so important?

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Owned

On the day of the historic House vote on the Senate bill and reconciliation package, conservative pundit David Frum wrote a piece titled "Waterloo," in which he stated that “conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s.” Frum argued that, by opposing the entire legislative effort as a means to cripple the Obama presidency and refusing to negotiate in good faith, the Republicans ensured they would have no part in shaping the most significant domestic policy of the last 40 years.

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Disinfected

Health professionals spend many thousands of hours training to cure disease. But they can learn how to stop the spread of deadly hospital infections in just a few minutes, by learning five steps for putting lines (that is, tubes) into patients’ bodies. Wash your hands. Clean the patient’s skin with chlorhexidine, a special antiseptic. Cover the patient fully in sterile drapes. Don full protective gear, including mask and gown.

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Last night I finally had a chance to read Atul Gawande's terrific New Yorker piece about health care costs, which everyone is recommending. I'll leave most of the analysis to the healthcare wonks (though I don't want to sell it short--it's an engagingly written piece that any civilian will enjoy). But, from where I sit, Gawande's most interesting idea is an analogy he offers up: About fifteen years ago, it seems, something began to change in McAllen. A few leaders of local institutions took profit growth to be a legitimate ethic in the practice of medicine. Not all the doctors accepted this.

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Punishing The Guilty

Atul Gawande has a fine piece in this week's New Yorker which describes some of the conditions in U.S. prisons, specifically the conditions of prisoners who end up in solitary confinement. Gawande's thesis is that human beings are social creatures who face extreme psychological distress when confronted with a complete lack of human-to-human contact. In fact, Gawande makes the case that such conditions can plausibly be called torture. He mentions that few if any other countries keep their prisioners in such conditions, and regrets this unfortunate example of American exceptionalism.

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