When I searched for recent articles by Dr. Gawande, I found one that was recently posted in the New England Journal of Medicine. I thought it might be interesting to see if he approaches his writing differently when writing toward a medical audience as opposed to the audience reading the New Yorker. The article recounts and explores the past 200 years of medical history, more specifically, surgery. He discusses how surgery has progressed to becoming less violent and increasingly successful. Dr. Gawande didn’t seem to explain the science as in depth as he does in the New Yorker, but I am not a doctor and was still able to follow his writing.
I wanted to share what I have learned from following Dr. Gawande’s writing this semester. He is with out a question an outstanding writer and there is much to be learned from following him. After keeping to tabs with his work, I feel that a few characteristics of his writing really stood out to me.
1. There is an art to talking negatively about someone- Dr. Gawande often would write about how to improve situations in medicine. In doing so, he would have to address failures of his failures as well as those of his peers. He was very wise in how he do so. A specific example that comes to mind is when he was discussing coaching for an article. A athlete’s coach advised him not to do something, the athlete did anyways and won a metal. Dr. Gawande has two options in how to address this story. The obvious would be stating the coach misguided the athlete and expounding on it. Instead, Dr. Gawande brought out the positive in it by focusing more on the athlete’s success and mentioning that coaches too can be incorrect. I noticed that he approaches touchy situations like this consistently.
2. Explaining clearly has power- Dr. Gawande thoroughly explains whatever he is writing on, regardless of if it is medical or something completely unrelated to medicine.
3. Research is vital- Dr. Gawande’s writing is extremely strong not only because of his writing skills, but because he is thorough in his research. He finds a topic and explores its relevance in not only medicine, but many other fields. And as I mentioned in point 2, he explains all of his research very clearly, in a way that allows readers to comprehend him 100%.
4. Powerful stories can arise from unexpected places- I think the main reason I really enjoyed Dr. Gawande’s work is because of this point. He looked at common sense ideas like checklists or coaching and thoroughly explored them in 9 page articles. Turns out there is more to these ideas than I could have possibly fathomed. Not only does he assess these common sense articles completely, but he uses them to create big solutions to big problems.