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A surgeon’s notes on performance

Hi, welcome to Bookey. Today we will unlock the book ‘Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance’.

There are generally accepted definitions of "good" in every profession; and for surgeons there is surely no exception. What kind of surgeon can be said to be a “good surgeon”? For ordinary people, the answer to this question may be something similar to: “someone who makes a cautious diagnosis and possesses excellent skills of precision”. After all, what people require from surgeons is their capability to cure diseases and save lives. However, for one surgeon, the answer goes beyond that.

This book is about a surgeon’s thoughts on this exact question: he believes that benevolence is the basis of becoming a surgeon. In order to be an outstanding surgeon, excellent medical skills are far from enough; it is also necessary to possess other qualities. As the title of this book "Better" suggests, the continuous drive to do better in various aspects of their career is the eternal pursuit of surgeons.

The surgeon who came up with this high standard for his colleagues is named Atul Gawande. He has a very impressive resume: he is a professor at Harvard Medical school, the youngest advisor in the Department of Health and Human Services, a key figure in Obama’s Medical Reform Policy, and a MacArthur Fellow. What is more surprising, is that he is not only good at medicine, but also, at writing. He is said to be the best writer among surgeons, as seen in the column that he writes for the New Yorker. Three of his published books are New York Times Best Sellers. Atul Gawande wrote down his medical experience and thought process and turned them into a famous medical trilogy, which has influenced many practitioners in the field. ‘Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance’ is the second book in this three book installment. At the time of publication, he was already a professional surgeon, but nevertheless, continued to hold himself to a higher standard. He also encouraged his colleagues to keep pushing themselves to do better and pursue excellence.

In this book, Atul Gawande proposes that in order to become excellent, a surgeon will need to not only possess excellent medical skills, but also diligence, the drive to do right, and ingenuity. Today, we will be using the following three key concepts and themes to analyze this book together:

First of all, surgeons need to be diligent. They need to pay attention to every single important detail in their daily medical activities and work hard when they are confronting major medical challenges;

Second of all, surgeons need to have a heart of integrity. They need to have the sense to do the right thing when they are communicating with patients, or dealing with tough situations;

Finally, surgeons need to possess ingenuity. They should have the courage to propose new strategies and enjoy improving existing medical techniques in practice.

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