Photo: Sian Richards
Jessica Ching, 32
Co-founder of Eve Medical in Toronto
She designs services that let women self-screen for STIs.
By Megan Jones
While Jessica Ching was having coffee with friends in 2008, the subject of Pap tests came up. “Everyone’s face fell,” she says. She realized that many women she knew were avoiding the test, as well as screening for HPV – an infection that can lead to cervical cancer – and other sexually transmitted infections, because the process was uncomfortable.
At the time, Ching was studying industrial design at OCAD University in Toronto. For her thesis project, she developed a prototype for a hand-held screening device that would allow users to take samples themselves – a boon for the skittish, but also for patients in underserved communities.
A fully functional version, called HerSwab, was released in 2015. It’s part of a screening system called Eve Kit, which will be available shortly for $90. After collecting samples using HerSwab, users send the kit off to a lab and are able to check their results online within a week.
If the device helps even a few more women get screened, Ching will consider the initiative a success. “No one should be dying of cervical cancer,” she says. “It’s so preventable.”
Photo: Heidi Jirotka
Dr. David Martell, 45
Family physician at Lunenberg Family Health in Lunenberg, N.S.
He provides addiction treatment in the comfort of a family practice.
By Megan Jones
In 2011, a teenage patient and his mother visited Dr. David Martell’s practice in Lunenberg, N.S. The young man was struggling with opioid addiction and needed medication to prevent withdrawal symptoms. No one in the community of 2,300 was qualified to dispense it.
That unfortunate experience prompted the doctor to seek out the necessary training. Today, he sees 40 patients dealing with opioid use disorder in the same building that houses his family clinic. The location is important: treating people with addictions in his practice diminishes the stigma that can arise when they are segregated. As a family physician, Martell is also familiar with his patients’ histories, allowing him to provide comprehensive care.
Across Canada, most doctors don’t know how to treat opioid use disorder. Martell stresses that this can’t go on. “We haven’t seen the worst of the opioid crisis,” he says. “If we don’t address the problem early, many young people will be exposed to drugs that will kill them.”
Photo: Simon Fraser University
Jeff Reading, 60
Chair in Heart Health and Wellness at First National Health Authority, Simon Fraser University and St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver
He makes hospitals work for indigenous people.
By Kevin Chong
Growing up in Toronto’s Regent Park, the country’s oldest social-housing project, Jeff Reading never imagined a career as a professor of medicine. Instead, he tried out for his father’s line of work, firefighting, and was rejected.
Reading has since found another way to save lives. He went on to earn a Ph.D in community health sciences and, in 2016, was named the first-ever Chair in Heart Health and Wellness at St. Paul’s Hospital, Simon Fraser University and the First Nations Health Authority. In close consultation with British Columbia’s 200 or so First Nations communities, Reading is designing cardiovascular health policies for a group that has almost double the rate of heart disease as Canada’s general population.
A Mohawk from the Tyendinaga First Nation, Reading believes his upbringing helped him understand the link between poverty and risky behaviours (such as smoking and drinking) that can cause heart disease and related complications (such as diabetes). In addition to lower incomes, indigenous people must contend with a legacy of multi-generational trauma that can lead to self-medicating behaviours.
First Nations patients requiring cardiovascular care may face a lack of understanding in the hospital setting; Reading’s research aims to generate policy that will promote culturally appropriate care. “The system is geared toward white, middle-aged males,” Reading says about current approaches to heart health. “It has to change.”