In his lecture series, ‘The Future of Medicine’, Atul Gawande will undertake a global examination of the nature of modern medicine: Both it’s progress and it’s failures. Medicine is defined he says by “the messy intersection of science and human fallibility.” The lectures will take place in India, the USA and UK.
Known for both his clear analysis and vivid storytelling, he will explore the growing importance of systems in medicine and argue that the future role of the medical profession in our lives should be bigger than simply assuring health and survival.
Atul Gawande, MD, MPH is a practicing surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Professor at both the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School. He’s become best known for his writing on medicine, including three widely acclaimed books, and his research on medical error and performance. Amongst his other roles, he is Director of Ariadne Labs, a joint center for health systems innovation, and Chairman of Lifebox, a global charity reducing unsafe surgery.
The first lecture, Why do Doctors Fail?, will explore the nature of imperfection in medicine. In particular, Gawande will examine how much of failure in medicine remains due to ignorance (lack of knowledge) and how much is due to ineptitude (failure to use existing knowledge) and what that means for where medical progress will come from in the future.
In the second lecture, The Century of the System, Gawande will focus on the impact that the development of systems has had – and should have in the future – on medicine and overcoming failures of ineptitude. He will dissect systems of all kinds, from simple checklists to complex mechanisms of many parts. And he will argue for how they can be better designed to transform care from the richest parts of the world to the poorest.
The third lecture, The Problem of Hubris, will examine the great unfixable problems in life and healthcare – aging and death. Gawande will argue that the reluctance of society and medical institutions to recognise the limits of what professionals can do is producing widespread suffering. But research is revealing how this can change.
The fourth and final lecture, The Idea of Wellbeing, will argue that medicine must shift from a focus on health and survival to a focus on wellbeing – on protecting, insofar as possible, people’s abilities to pursue their highest priorities in life. And, as he will suggest from the story of his father’s life and death from cancer, those priorities are nearly always more complex than simply to live longer.
Atul Gawande said: “I am flattered and grateful to have the chance to give this year’s Reith Lectures. After almost two decades of writing and research on medicine, I hope to use to the Lectures to bring together my thinking on how medicine is changing and must change globally.”
Atul Gawande will deliver his Reith Lectures in front of live audiences this autumn. The first lecture will be recorded in Boston, followed by lectures at the Wellcome Collection in London, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and in Delhi.
The lectures will be broadcast on both BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service from November.