Gov. Deval Patrick Should Nominate Dr. Atul Gawande As Interim U.S. Senator

GawandeCapNext week, the Massachusetts state senate is expected to pass legislation giving Gov. Deval Patrick the authority to appoint a temporary successor to the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. The interim appointee would serve until the Jan. 19 special election.

Clearly, whomever Gov. Patrick decides to appoint will have a significant role to play in the health care debate over the coming months. It is for that reason we at the Center for American Progress Action Fund believe that Dr. Atul Gawande would be best choice for the job.

Dr. Gawande is a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School, and has written extensively on medicine for The New Yorker. An articulate and eloquent speaker on health matters, Dr. Gawande is a former Rhodes Scholar, a MacArthur Fellow, and unquestionably one of the nation’s leading health policy experts.

President Obama has told his staff that Dr. Gawande’s writings are “required reading” in the White House. Dr. Gawande has written extensively on sustaining health care reform and lowering health care costs over the long term. He previously worked for Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) and the 1992 Clinton presidential campaign, and he served on Clinton Health Care Task Force.

Gov. Patrick has a unique opportunity to advance and energize the health care debate by giving the Senate a powerful voice for change who understands what’s needed to fix our broken health care system. On the day he would step foot in the Senate, Dr. Gawande would be the most knowledgeable health policy expert in the chamber, an incredible resource for his fellow Senate colleagues, and a champion for reform.

We believe that in the course of the next four months, Dr. Gawande can be an influential voice to deliver health care for all Americans. And then, he can retire honorably and go back to his day job.


Matt Yglesias offers this endorsement of Gawande: “Someone holding a Senate seat during a critical period but with no future political ambitions would have a pretty unique opportunity to play a kind of bold leadership role if the Senator in question were someone with the knowledge and credibility to really contribute to the debate.”

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