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Dr. Martin publishes book on health system improvement

Dr Danielle MartinTORONTO – Dr. Danielle Martin (pictured), a family physician and VP of medical affairs at Women’s College Hospital, has published ‘Better Now: Six Big Ideas to Improve Healthcare.’ The book outlines Dr. Martin’s recommendations for enhancing the medicare system in Canada.

As a family doctor, Dr. Martin sees the cracks and challenges in our healthcare system every day. A passionate believer in the value of fairness that underpins the Canadian healthcare system, Dr. Martin is on a mission to improve Medicare in ways that will benefit us all.

In ‘Better Now,’ she shows how fundamental fixes are both achievable and affordable. Her patients’ stories and her own family’s experiences illustrate the evidence she brings together about what works best to improve healthcare for all.

• Big Idea 1: The Return to Relationships: Ensure relationship-based primary healthcare for every Canadian.

• Big Idea 2: A Nation With a Drug Problem: Bring prescription drugs under Medicare.

• Big Idea 3: Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There: Reduce unnecessary tests and interventions.

• Big Idea 4: Doing More with Less: Reorganize health care delivery to reduce wait times and improve quality.

• Big Idea 5: Basic Income for Basic Health: Implement a basic income guarantee.

• Big Idea 6: The Anatomy of Change: Scale up successful solutions across the country.

In 2013, Dr. Martin was named one of the Toronto Star’s top “13 People to Watch.” Appearing regularly on CBC’s The National, where she comments on the latest in cancer research to physician assisted dying, Danielle is a strong advocate for removing barriers to care.

In 2013, she helped found the WCH Institute for Health Systems Solutions and Virtual Care – a real-world solutions engine dedicated to solving the health gaps in our system.

Known for her debate on the merits of the Canadian vs. American health systems, she continues to defend and define the ways that we can make our healthcare system more equitable and effective.

Dr. Martin told the Toronto Star that her activism was instilled by her mother, Anita Shilton, a dean at Ryerson University, and her father, D’Arcy Martin, a labour activist.

“I grew up being taught and therefore believing that everyone should be pitching in and doing what they can to make the world a better place,” she says. “There’s no way to say that that doesn’t sound cheesy, but it’s true.”

She also grew up with a tragic story about the desolate healthcare landscape that awaited her maternal grandfather when he arrived in Canada from Egypt, which was in the midst of political turmoil, in 1951.

In the book’s prologue, she recounts how Jacques Elie Shilton, a Renaissance man who spoke seven languages, was physically and financially ruined after his 1952 coronary. Breathing difficulties and crippling circulatory troubles followed. But in the pay-out-of-pocket medical system of the day, he often had to forgo needed drugs and treatments.

Chronic health and financial troubles caused his marriage to dissolve, and his need to borrow money for surgery strained broader family relations for generations.

“My mother found him dead at four o’clock in the morning on March 9, 1966 … he was 54 years old,” Martin writes. “My mother’s view is that the struggle to deal with the financial hardships – along with health problems – destroyed her family.”

Her grandfather’s story gave Martin the healthcare focus that’s guided her career – a career that reversed the path taken by most activist physicians.

“For most physician leaders and physicians who are more active in system-level issues, the normal trajectory is that you begin as a doctor,” she says. “And (as a doctor) you come to understand and appreciate the importance of high-functioning systems and the social determinants of health and all of those larger issues as a result of one-to-one (patient) interactions.”

Martin, instead, dove head first into those big-policy issues after earning a science degree from McGill in 1998, becoming an assistant to Liberal health critic Gerard Kennedy in the Ontario legislature.

“I was passionate about improving the healthcare system before I turned to medicine as a career,” she says.

Dr. Martin, who is vice-president of medical affairs and health system solutions at Women’s College Hospital, also earned a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Toronto, where she is now an assistant professor in family and community medicine.

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