CHR's 2009 Saward Lecture Featured Atul Gawande, MD, MPH, Nationally Renowned Writer and Surgeon

Dr. Gawande offered an insider's perspective into the U.S. health care debate

(PORTLAND, Ore.) September 24, 2009—Dr. Atul Gawande—surgeon, bestselling author, health policy expert, Harvard professor, and National Book Award finalist—came to Portland to deliver the 19th Saward Lecture.

Gawande, who has also written two best-selling books on improving medical care, spoke to a full house at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall at 7:30 pm on Wednesday, September 23rd. The lecture was entitled, "Inside the U.S. Health Care Debate: How to provide affordable, high-quality health care for all Americans."

The Saward Lecture series is hosted by The Center for Health Research, Kaiser Permanente Northwest as a gift to the community. It is an annual event, named for Dr. Ernie Saward (1914–1989), the founding medical director of Kaiser Permanente Northwest, who retired in 1970.

Tickets were provided free of charge as a benefit to the community on a first-come, first-served basis.

Dr. Gawande spoke about health care reform—a topic he recently wrote about for The New Yorker magazine. In the article, "The Cost Conundrum: What a Texas town can teach us about health care," Gawande describes a broken system that allows doctors to inflate charges and provide unneeded services to increase their reimbursement. The article has been widely circulated among medical experts, journalists and policy makers, including President Obama, as a prime example of what’s wrong with the American health care system.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden described the President’s reaction to the article in a meeting with democratic senators. “He came into the meeting with that article having affected his thinking dramatically,” Senator Wyden told The New York Times. “He, in effect, took that article and put it in front of a big group of senators and said, ‘This is what we’ve got to fix.’”

Dr. Gawande was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2002 for Complications and received a MacArthur Award for his research and writing in 2006. His latest book, Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance, is a New York Times bestseller and one of’s 10 best books of 2007. In addition to his writing, Dr. Gawande continues to practice general and endocrine surgery. He is a staff member of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Dr. Gawande is also Associate Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, where he earned his medical degree, Associate Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health, and Associate Director for the BWH Center for Surgery and Public Health.

Dr. Gawande is also an expert in health policy. After receiving a BAS from Stanford University, Dr. Gawande earned an MA (in politics, philosophy, and economics) from Oxford University, and an MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health. He served as a senior health policy advisor in the Clinton White House from 1992 to 1993. Today, in addition to his medical practice and writing, Dr. Gawande is the director of the World Health Organization’s Global Challenge for Safer Surgical Care where his research focus, he says, “is on reducing deaths, complications, and disparities in surgery in the United States and abroad.

Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research, founded in 1964, is a non-profit research institution whose mission is advancing knowledge to improve health. It has research sites in Portland OR; Honolulu, HI; and Atlanta, GA.

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