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Commencement Speaker - 2016

Atul Gawande

You can read the transcript of Dr. Gawande's Commencement address, posted on the website of The New Yorker.

Surgeon, writer, and public health researcher Atul Gawande, MD, MPH, will be the speaker at Caltech's 122nd annual commencement ceremony. The ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. on Friday, June 10, 2016, on Beckman Mall on Caltech's campus. The ceremony will also be live-streamed online.

Gawande practices general and endocrine surgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and is a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and he is 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 between Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Harvard T. H Chan School of Public Health. He is also the chairman of Lifebox, a nonprofit organization created with the goal of making surgery safer globally—especially in low-resource countries—through the distribution of appropriate technologies.

Since 1998, Gawande has also been a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine, where his writing frequently focuses on major issues facing medicine and public health in the 21st century. According to The New York Times, his influential 2009 article "The Cost Conundrum"—an investigation of rising health care costs in America—was discussed by President Obama and his aides.

"As soon as I think I understand how everything works, I see a patient, and then the real world contradicts it again. My chance to write is a chance to make sense of what I'm seeing and understand problems and things that confuse me. Why are costs in health care so high? Why is the way we take care of mortality in medicine so flawed? Why do we itch?" said Gawande in a 2012 video interview with The Washington Post. "The writing lets me get out ahead of a problem. Take a risk, try investigating ideas, testing the waters on them, and then the science lets me see if it holds up when we try to put it in the real world."

In addition to his magazine writing, Gawande is the author of four New York Times best-sellers: Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect ScienceBetterThe Checklist Manifesto, and, most recently, Being MortalMedicine and What Matters in the End.

Gawande earned a bachelor's degree in biology and political science from Stanford University in 1987. A Rhodes scholar, Gawande earned a master's degree in philosophy, politics and economics from Balliol College, Oxford in 1989. In 1995, he graduated with a Doctor of Medicine from Harvard Medical School, and in 1999 he earned a Master of Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health.

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 Prize for writing about science.

Learn more about our speaker in "A Conversation with Atul Gawande" published on the main Caltech website.


A complete list of Caltech's past commencement speakers can be found in our archive.