Gawande inspires with talk on healthcare

Guilford College’s website describes Atul Gawande as a “best-selling author and physician.” He describes himself as “A doctor who got lucky enough to start writing during (his) training.”

On Oct. 20, he came to the Greensboro Coliseum to speak at the Bryan Series.

“He was a very engaging speaker,” said senior Emma Rountree. “(His talk) was something that, even if you had very little knowledge of healthcare, you could still understand.”

Gawande spoke about medicine and how extending a life does not necessarily improve the quality of a person’s life.

“Medicine and we, as a society, have forgotten how important these matters are to people as they approach life’s end,” said Gawande during his talk at the Bryan Series. “People want to share their memories. They want to be connected to those who matter to them.”

Before Gawande could come to Guilford, Associate Director of the Bryan Series Suzanne Ingram and Associate Vice President for the Bryan Series and Advancement Communications Ty Buckner had to work with Gawande’s busy schedule.

“Before the event, he talked with us on the phone,” said Ingram. “He was very gracious, very willing to do anything we asked, even if it wasn’t necessarily in his itinerary.”

In spite of crazy schedules, bringing Gawande to the Bryan Series was something the administration was determined to do.

“Even though his career is medicine … his bachelor’s degree (is) in philosophy,” said President Jane Fernandes. “I would hope our pre-med and pre-health students would understand the value of being here in a liberal arts environment.”

Before the Bryan Series event, Gawande spoke at the O.Henry Hotel in downtown Greensboro, where several students got the opportunity to speak with him in a small group.

“He seems … like he’s in it for the teaching and for the actual relationships he can have with his patients, the actual care of people, and that’s hard to find,” said sophomore Sav Dew. “We don’t always have the resources that other big universities have … so to have someone as successful as he is as part of our Bryan Series is huge.”

Most of the students who saw Gawande speak at the O.Henry are hoping to go into careers in healthcare.

“He’s a physician and he’s an educator,” said Coordinator for Health Sciences Major & Pre-Health Professions Advising Anne Glenn. “This was an opportunity for pre-health students to … go and see a very important (person in that field).”

Students like this were grateful for the opportunity to see a person that highlighted the importance of the work they plan to do.

“In any year, we really want one or more speakers to be aligned with one or more important … academic programs at Guilford, (to) spotlight our students,” said Buckner.

Students like first-year Rohini Rajnarayanan were inspired and reassured by Gawande’s talk at the hotel.

“Everything he said was really valuable, especially because I want to go into the healthcare field,” said Rajnarayanan.

Not long after, Gawande made his way to the Greensboro Coliseum, where he spoke about everything, from big philosophical questions to his family of doctors.

“I spent a lot of time rebelling, but I rebelled in a very nerdy way,” said Gawande. “I (studied) politics and philosophy at Oxford, and then I returned from there, and still, my parents would call and say, ‘Are you going to med school now?’”

Overall, the second Bryan Series event of the 2015-2016 season was a success to those who attended.

“The students have a firsthand experience … and gain great inspiration that makes them better students and better people,” said Fernandes. “I don’t know many small liberal arts colleges that (offer that).”