Funding Medicine’s Greater Good

Longtime philanthropists Cyndy and John Fish see Atul Gawande, MD, MPH, as a representative of the best that Brigham and Women’s Hospital has to offer patients—and to medicine at large.

Gawande, a BWH-trained surgeon and New York Times best-selling author, works to develop simple solutions to difficult medical issues facing society. In the five years since founding Ariadne Labs, a joint center between BWH and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, he has built a diverse team to explore critical topics such as surgical errors and end-of-life care—and find ways to improve them.

To advance this work, the Fishes recently gave $2 million to establish the Cynthia and John F. Fish Distinguished Chair in Surgery at BWH, with Gawande as the first incumbent. This endowed position will bolster his clinical, educational, and research projects—with an emphasis on improving healthcare delivery through Ariadne Labs.

“Atul is grappling with how to identify the soul of medicine,” says Cyndy. “He asks, ‘How do we more thoughtfully and compassionately take care of the next generation?’ He’s getting at the greater good of society.”

The Fishes point to the surgical checklists developed by Gawande that have been adopted worldwide. In addition, they say Gawande’s work to redefine end-of-life care is especially meaningful as they help Cyndy’s mother contend with Alzheimer’s disease.

“Cyndy and John’s generosity is helping our team’s work to design practical, scalable solutions for better care—more effective, more compassionate, and less wasteful care—at the most critical moments in people’s lives,” Gawande says. “I’m grateful that, of all the worthy needs they could support at the Brigham, they chose to invest in our goals.”

This latest gift continues the Fishes’ support of BWH, both as benefactors and ambassadors. Notably, John was recently appointed chair of the Board of Trustees and also serves as chair of the hospital’s Life.Giving.Breakthroughs. campaign.

“Cyndy and I are extremely proud of our affiliation with the Brigham,” says John. “The hospital provides world-class healthcare to patients and is addressing complex challenges associated with healthcare of the future. Atul does the same thing. He represents the core values of the Brigham.”