How Dr. Atul Gawande landed CEO role at Amazon-Berkshire-JPMorgan venture

During an appearance at the Aspen Ideas Festival Spotlight Health, which took place June 21-24 in Aspen, Colo., Atul Gawande, MD — who was recently selected to lead the nonprofit health organization spearheaded by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase — said his appointment really stemmed from an article he wrote for The New Yorker nine years ago, according to STAT News.

Dr. Gawande told STAT the piece "opened the door" for him as a potential candidate for the chief executive position because the report caught the eye of Charlie Munger, vice chairman for Berkshire Hathaway.

The 2009 article "The Cost Conundrum" discussed why healthcare was vastly more expensive in certain areas of the U.S., despite limited differences in the quality of care provided and the intensity of patients' ailments.

Though Dr. Gawande said his relationship with Mr. Munger helped pave the way for his eventual selection as CEO of the health venture, he said during the event June 23 he believes Amazon Founder, Chairman and CEO Jeff Bezos, Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett, and JPMorgan Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon all "heard about [him] in different ways," STAT reports.

Dr. Gawande said he, along with at least a hundred others, was first approached by the trio of CEOs for his thoughts on healthcare delivery in January. He said he was first contacted by Berkshire investment manager Todd Combs.

Despite taking on the role, which he said "is going to become the number one priority," Dr. Gawande affirmed he will continue his work as a surgeon at Boston-based Brigham and Women's Hospital.

"I still have my patients and surgery booked through the summer and have my work," he said.

During the panel June 23, Dr. Gawande spoke about his perceived role at the venture — a nonprofit that will not financially benefit the three companies in any way, he said.

"The largest concept here is that I get to have a million patients that I, as a doctor, get to add to my responsibility, and my job for them is to figure out ways that we're going to drive better outcomes, better satisfaction with care and better cost efficiency with new models that can be incubated for all," Dr. Gawande said. "That is a tall fricking order. But what [Amazon, Berkshire and JPMorgan are] saying to me is that resources won't be the problem. Human behavior will be. And achieving scale will be."

To access the STAT report, click here.

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