Atul Gawande to lead Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase venture

As CEO of the new company, which will be based in Boston, the public health expert will seek to "incubate better models of care for all," he says.
By Mike Miliard
12:16 PM
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Atul Gawande to lead Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase venture

Atul Gawande, MD, delivering a speech at a Geisinger Health System event in Pennsylvania in 2015. Photo by Lisa Lake, Getty Images

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan announced the eagerly-anticipated head of their joint venture on Wednesday: Atul Gawande, MD. 

Gawande has worn many hats over his distinguished career: surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, professor at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, staff writer at The New Yorker, best-selling author.

The precise nature of the new venture, which the three companies announced earlier this year, is still largely shrouded in mystery. It doesn't even have a name yet. 

But today three new facts emerged: It will be based in Boston. It will be an "independent entity that is free from profit-making incentives and constraints." And Gawande will lead it, starting on July 9.

"I’m thrilled to be named CEO of this healthcare initiative," said Gawande in a statement. “I have devoted my public health career to building scalable solutions for better healthcare delivery that are saving lives, reducing suffering, and eliminating wasteful spending both in the U.S. and across the world.

"Now I have the backing of these remarkable organizations to pursue this mission with even greater impact for more than a million people, and in doing so incubate better models of care for all," he added. "This work will take time but must be done. The system is broken, and better is possible."

STAT, citing a note sent by Gawande to friends and colleagues, reports that he "is not giving up his positions at Harvard or the Brigham and that he will keep writing, including for The New Yorker. But he said he will transition from being executive director to chairman of Ariadne Labs, which works on solving problems in health systems around the world."

In addition to that work, Gawande has written four New York Times bestsellers: Complications, Better, The Checklist Manifesto and Being Mortal.

Despite the ongoing uncertainty about just how this new joint venture will continue to evolve, and indeed some skepticism about how much influence it will ultimately have on a sprawling, complicated and inefficient healthcare industry, it's clear that it's part of a wider trend toward disruption and tectonic movements – and that it would behoove hospitals and health systems to pay close attention to how it continues to play out.

Certainly, the hiring of an influential and widely-respected figure such as Gawande suggests the companies have big plans in mind.

"As employers and as leaders, addressing healthcare is one of the most important things we can do for our employees and their families, as well as for the communities where we all work and live," said JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, in a statement. "Together, we have the talent and resources to make things better, and it is our responsibility to do so."

"We said at the outset that the degree of difficulty is high and success is going to require an expert’s knowledge, a beginner’s mind and a long-term orientation," added Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. "Atul embodies all three."

"Jamie, Jeff and I are confident that we have found in Atul the leader who will get this important job done," said Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett.

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: mike.miliard@himssmedia.com