Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande

I picked this book up because it was named one of the best non-fiction books of 2007 by whoever it is that chooses those things for my employer. It is a collection of essays about the practice of medicine in today's world, from the point of view of Gawande, who is a general surgeon at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, among other things. For this book he speaks from experience, but also obviously did a lot of research and travel.
The book is divided into three parts, each of which covers a topic that Gawande believes has improved medicine. They are Diligence, Doing Right, and Ingenuity. Each covers topics as diverse as hand-washing and movable hospitals in Iraq. All are connected, and Gawande does a good job of keeping the message coherent. Medicine has made some incredible leaps in performance, but in this book those that are described are the small changes in habits, not the large changes that research brings. It is amazing to read about how many more lives are saved due to these small effects.

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