What We’re Reading: Atul Gawande’s The Heroism of Incremental Care

February 13, 2017

We are struck by certain parallels between medicine and education in a recent essay by Atul Gawande. He critiques the medical field’s high valuation of the heroic physician or surgeon who swoops in with an emergency procedure and saves a patient’s life. Gawande offers an alternative view of heroism, one that prizes incremental improvement: “Success, therefore, is not about the episodic, momentary victories, though they do play a role. It is about the longer view of incremental steps that produce sustained progress. That, such clinicians argue, is what making a difference really looks like. In fact, it is what making a difference looks like in a range of endeavors.” We think education is one of those endeavors. Implementing rigorous, incremental, human-centered, quality improvement processes is an efficient and efficacious antidote to our fascination with “silver bullet” education programs that frequently don’t yield promised results.