June 2018 \ Cover Story \ COVER STORY
THE RISE OF ATUL GAWANDE

It’s not every day that Warren Buffet, Jeff Bezos and Jamie Dimon find the time to get together and hunt for a suitable...

In short, his bio is pretty much accomplished and he has become a household name. His selection is all the more commendable because Gawande belongs to the Asian Indian community which constitutes a mere one percent of the U.S. population.

Dr Gawande had once managed to say a fleeting hello to Bezos at a TED Talk. He had no idea about Jamie Dimon, though. Interestingly, years ago, Charlie Munger, a businessman and entrepreneur who is Buffet’s longtime right-hand man, had interacted with Gawande, in a way that would have been hugely flattering for the Indian-origin doctor. That was soon after Gawande had written an acclaimed article for the New Yorker titled The Cost Conundrum in 2009. The piece examined why healthcare had become vastly more expensive in some parts of the U.S. than others, in spite of little difference in its quality as well as the level of sickness of the people receiving it. He did the reporting from McAllen, Texas, at the time the most expensive healthcare market in the U.S. Munger was so impressed after reading the article that he sent a USD 20,000 check to Gawande through the New Yorker, one that the doctor promptly returned. When Munger sent the check back and asked him to do whatever he wished with the money, Gawande put it into a research fund at the hospital he worked.

The Munger connection may have eventually paved the way for his selection of the yet-to-be-named—one set of speculation says it could be the ABC firm, after the first letters of the three companies that have teamed up—new healthcare company. In 2010, in an interview to CNBC, Buffet too had praised The Cost Conundrum piece, going on record to say that “…fellow who’s written on healthcare recently in the New Yorker—Gawande—he had an article last summer that was absolutely magnificent.” But the intermediary who did first get in touch with Gawande is Todd Combs, an investment manager at Berkshire Hathaway, Buffet’s company. Combs who was named on the board of JPMorgan Chase by Dimon put the three billionaires together.




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