Atul Gawande Rocks in the O.R.

Charles McGrath in the New York Times:

04gawa600Just as precious to Dr. Atul Gawande as his loupes — magnifying glasses he wears during surgery — is his iPod, which he carries with him into the operating room and plugs into a little speaker there. On a recent day, when he took out a gallbladder, two thyroids and what was supposed to be a parathyroid gland but maybe wasn’t, the playlist included David Bowie, Arcade Fire, Regina Spektor, Aimee Mann, Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, the Decemberists and the Killers.

The music wasn’t turned up high, but it rocked sufficiently that the anesthesiologist bobbed his head, the O.R. nurse tapped her toe, and the member of the team in charge of all the clamps and retractors drummed his fingers on the instrument tray. “It all depends on who’s in the room,” Dr. Gawande said of his selections. “You can’t play anything hard-hitting if there’s anyone over 45.”

Dr. Gawande is 41, and it might be said that that’s a little old for the Killers. In every other respect, however, he is almost annoyingly admirable. He is tall, handsome, brilliant (a former Rhodes scholar and currently the recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant); he has three children and a wife with musical interests so eclectic that when they pooled their vinyl record collections, his 800 and her 600, there were only 10 overlaps; he’s an accomplished surgeon and an equally accomplished writer, whose second book, “Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance” (Metropolitan Books), comes out this week.

More here.