U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday nominated writer, surgeon and public health expert Atul Gawande to lead global health development at the U.S. Agency for International Development, including for COVID-19, the White House said. Gawande, author of four New York Times best-selling books and a professor at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, would serve as the assistant administrator of USAID's Bureau for Global Health, if confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
His role at USAID will focus on efforts to prevent child and maternal deaths, control the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and combat infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, a White House official said. Gawande appears to be taking his own advice. Last month, he told advanced degree graduates at Stanford University to be "open to trying stuff – to saying yes" to new opportunities.
On Tuesday, he said he was honored to be tapped for the job. "With more COVID deaths worldwide in the first half of 2021 than in all of 2020, I'm grateful for the chance to help end this crisis and to re-strengthen public health systems worldwide," he wrote on Twitter. Gawande, an outspoken critic of his industry's practices, was hired in 2018 by Berkshire Hathaway Inc, Amazon.com Inc and JPMorgan Chase & Co to lead Haven, a joint healthcare company aimed at cutting costs for U.S. employees.
But the Boston-based venture was short-lived and shut down in February. Gawande's 2014 book, "Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End" explores the limitations and failures of the medical profession in grappling with the realities of aging and death.
Gawande, a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1998 and the winner of a MacArthur Fellowship, is also founder and chair of Ariadne Labs, a center for health systems innovation, and of Lifebox, a nonprofit organization aimed at making surgery safer globally. During the pandemic, Gawande co-founded CIC Health, which operates COVID-19 testing and vaccination nationally, and served on Biden transition's advisory board on COVID-19.
He served as a senior adviser in the Department of Health and Human Services during the administration of former President Bill Clinton.