This commencement address by Atul Gawande, the practicing physician who writes about medicine for The New Yorker, has been getting a lot of attention. It paints a perhaps-dispiriting portrait of modern medicine as a matter of frequent routine practiced by large interactive teams. Not a lot of room for Dr. House in this world:
“There is resistance, sometimes vehement resistance, to the efforts that make it possible. Partly, it is because the work is rooted in different values than the ones we’ve had. They include humility, an understanding that no matter who you are, how experienced or smart, you will fail. They include discipline, the belief that standardization, doing certain things the same way every time, can reduce your failures. And they include teamwork, the recognition that others can save you from failure, no matter who they are in the hierarchy.
“These values are the opposite of autonomy, independency, self-sufficiency. Many doctors fear the future will end daring, creativity, and the joys of thinking that medicine has had.”
Gawande, of course, thinks creativity still has its place in this world. David Brooks, who has lately shown limited interest in explaining in explaining how politicians work and more interest in figuring out how societies do, extrapolates Gawande’s lesson to a broader argument: Individualism is overrated.