Dr. Atul Gawande, a prominent surgeon, teacher, entrepreneur, public figure, and staff writer for The New Yorker, has been nominated CEO of an Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, and Berkshire Hathaway funded venture to fix America’s ailing healthcare system. Widely known for his 2009 New Yorker piece The Cost Conundrum, Dr. Gawande openly criticized the US healthcare system and its inherent inequality. More important, however, are the solutions he proposed in that article and others he’s written since. It was those novel criticisms and subsequent proposed solutions which garnered him attention from the likes of Jeff Bezos, Jamie Dimon, and Warren Buffett and, eventually, the nomination to head their as-yet-unnamed venture.
The blunder of American healthcare is a favourite talking point for media outlets nationwide, but sadly the people suffering its impractical costs and unfavourable results have no alternative. Throughout the past decade, Dr. Gawande has consistently critiqued American healthcare for failing to deliver to constituents who need it most: namely the poor and unwell. His proposed solutions focus upon delivering better healthcare to everybody, but especially to those who truly need it.
There is a strong business case for optimising American healthcare, but does Gawande’s appointment signal a shift towards deeper alignment between societal and business values? Investors often refer to disruptive and high-potential companies as those that solve social problems, but what does it mean when three of the worlds most profitable companies support a venture to improve healthcare for all? Furthermore, could Gawande’s appointment signal a shift towards impact investing as the new norm?