The State of Public Health: A Conversation with Atul Gawande


Associated Program:
John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum
Atul Gawande
David T. Ellwood
HKS Health Policy PIC
Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government


Introductory Remarks by
David T. Ellwood
Director, Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy

A Conversation with
Atul Gawande
Director, Ariadne Labs
Samuel O. Thier Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School
Cristine Russell (Moderator)
Science Journalist
Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

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Atul Gawande, MD, MPH, is a surgeon, writer, and public health researcher. He practices general and endocrine surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He is Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Samuel O. Thier Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School. He is also Executive Director of Ariadne Labs, a joint center for health systems innovation, and Chairman of Lifebox, a nonprofit organization making surgery safer globally.
Atul has been a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine since 1998 and has written four New York Times bestsellers: Complications, Better, The Checklist Manifesto, and most recently, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. He is the winner of two National Magazine Awards, AcademyHealth’s Impact Award for highest research impact on healthcare, a MacArthur Fellowship, and the Lewis Thomas Award for writing about science.

Cristine Russell is an award-winning freelance journalist who has covered science, environment, public health and STEM issues for more than three decades. At HKS, she is an Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy and Senior Fellow in the Environment and Natural Resources Program, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.  Russell, a former national science reporter for The Washington Post, has also written for outlets such as Scientific American, Columbia Journalism Review and The Atlantic. Russell co-chaired the Organizing Committee of the World Conference of Science Journalists 2017 in San Francisco. She is immediate past-president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing and a former president of the National Association of Science Writers. Russell is an Advisory Board member and former Fellow at HKS’ Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics & Public Policy. She has served on the boards of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism; and the Commonwealth Fund. Russell is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; an honorary member of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society; and a Mills College graduate with a degree in biology.

David T. Ellwood, the Isabelle and Scott Black Professor of Political Economy, served as Dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government from July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2015. He began his appointment as Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy on July 1, 2016.
Ellwood joined the Kennedy School faculty in 1980 and served two separate terms as the School's Academic Dean.
In 1993, he was named Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) where he served as co-chair of President Clinton's Working Group on Welfare Reform, Family Support and Independence. At HHS, Ellwood played a key role in the Administration's development and implementation of critical social policy.
Recognized as one of the nation's leading scholars on poverty and welfare, Ellwood's work has been credited with significantly influencing public policy in the United States and abroad. A labor economist who also specializes in family change, low pay and unemployment, his most recent research focuses on the changing structure of American families. Ellwood is the author of numerous books and articles, including Welfare Realities: From Rhetoric to Reform, co-authored with Mary Jo Bane. His book, Poor Support: Poverty in the American Family, was selected by the New York Times Book Review as one of the notable books of 1988 and by the Policy Studies Organization as the outstanding book of the year.
Ellwood was recipient of the David N. Kershaw Award, given by the Association of Public Policy Analysis and Management to outstanding individuals under the age of 40 who have made a distinguished contribution to the field of public policy. He also received the Morris and Edna Zale Award for Outstanding Distinction in Scholarship and Public Service from Stanford University.
Ellwood is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and a Senior Research Affiliate of the National Poverty Center at University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. He is also a Faculty Affiliate of the Joint Center for Poverty Research at Northwestern University/University of Chicago and serves on the Board of Abt Associates and the Malcolm Hewitt Wiener Foundation.
A native of Minnesota, Ellwood graduated summa cum laude from Harvard in 1975 and earned a Ph.D. in economics from the University in 1981.
Ellwood has been married for more than 25 years to his wife Marilyn. They love hiking, sea kayaking, and most outdoor activities. They have two daughters, Malinda and Andrea.