Atul Gawande on Priorities, Big and Small (Ep. 26)

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Mercatus Center
Jul 19, 2017 · 36 min read

On artificial intelligence and CRISPR


George Church, famous genomics pioneer, biotech researcher, who’s had tremendous influence and has been one of the most creative forces in the field, has narcolepsy. And he attributes a lot of his insights and capabilities to the fact that he falls into a deep REM sleep at the drop of a hat and then wakes up with ideas.

…And there’s lots of ways in which he is unique, and a parent might think, “aberrant person,” and wouldn’t select for what he has brought to the world.


On operating room culture and the importance of checklists


We’d see places that had turned our 19-item checklist — the most extreme example, they turned it into an 81-item checklist. It was impossible to use. We’d specifically designed it to be something you could run through in 60 seconds or less at each pause point, so you weren’t distracted from the main operation. And you could see that the administration in the hospital had got hold of it, and they were using it to try to impose their ideas.


On the (dis)connection between healthcare and health outcomes

On what’s missing in medical education


…the clinicians of the future really need to be oriented in a counselor mode, where they are not just telling you what the options are, but also eliciting from you very clearly what your goals are, and then making a recommendation about what most matches your goals. What are your priorities for your quality of life as well as quantity of life? People have priorities besides mere survival.


On liberalizing the FDA

On things under- and overrated

On personal flaws, including as a patient


We get this complaint, for example, that using a checklist in surgery, “Well that’s fine, but in emergencies, we don’t have time for that kind of thing.” And we demonstrated that in that situation, taking the one-and-a-half minutes for the very beginning part of it has enormous value. It’s, in fact, the group in whom we have the highest reduction in death are those in which the time is the most pressing.


On the Atul Gawande production function

On indie music


Conversations with Tyler

A podcast in which esteemed economist Tyler Cowen engages with today's most underrated thinkers in wide-ranging explorations of their work, the world, and everything in between.

Mercatus Center

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The Mercatus Center at George Mason University is the world’s premier university source for market-oriented ideas.

Conversations with Tyler

A podcast in which esteemed economist Tyler Cowen engages with today's most underrated thinkers in wide-ranging explorations of their work, the world, and everything in between.