Treatments

Atul's Heart-To-Heart With Med School Grads

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Dr. Atul Gawande: Surgeon, writer, healthcare reformer /Rose Lincoln/Harvard News Office hide caption

itoggle caption /Rose Lincoln/Harvard News Office

Dr. Atul Gawande's commencement address this morning to graduating medical students at the University of Chicago reminds me of my favorite fortune-cookie saying: "All is not yet lost."

The Boston surgeon has been cited lately by everybody up to President Obama for his New Yorker article that pulled back the curtain on why doctors in McAllen, Texas, practice one of the most expensive styles of medicine in America.

It's because patients in McAllen get more "stuff," Gawande says. More tests, more procedures, more specialist visits, more hospital admissions. "But not necessarily more of what they need."

McAllen is far from alone. And health "reform" ain't gonna work if American docs keep doing that, Gawande told the newly minted physicians.

He advises them to be "positive deviants" — doctors who deviate from the norm in positive ways.

Look for those in your community who are making health care better, safer and less costly. Pay attention to them. Learn how they do it. And join with them.

In other words, resist seeing patients as walking ATM machines. Change the medical culture. Redeem the soul of American medicine.

If young doctors will do that, Gawande says, maybe all is not yet lost.

You can read his entire commencement speech here.

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