2024

The Power List: Health Care

New drugs, docs, tests and tech—brought to us by these medical marvels
Photo illustrations by Anna Minzhulina
HEALTHCARE_collage

April 1, 2024

1. Shabazi

1. Hamed Shahbazi | Founder and CEO, Well Health Technologies

“Private” used to be a dirty word in Canadian health care. Well Health is trying to change that.
In 1997, the day after he completed his civil engineering degree at the University of British Columbia, Hamed Shahbazi launched Info-Touch Technologies, his first startup. It began as a chain of internet-enabled kiosks in convenience stores across America, designed to help the digitally underserved get online. When the internet went global, Shahbazi pivoted his kiosks to email, PalmPilot syncing, video teleconferencing and, finally, bill payments. His last switch stuck: catering to the many Americans, including immigrants, who lacked bank accounts and needed a way to pay their bills fast, Shahbazi rebranded Info-Touch as Tio—or “uncle” in Spanish. Its revenue grew from $8 million in 2005 to $40 million in 2013 and, in 2017, PayPal bought the company for $304 million.

2. Holland

2. Mark Holland | Minister of health

For adding life-changing drugs to Canada’s coverage list
For decades, Canada was the only country with universal health care that didn’t also provide universal drug coverage—until now. This past February, Mark Holland—the MP for Ajax, Ontario, who was installed as minister of health last year—made good on a much-delayed Liberal promise, introducing Bill C-64, or the Pharmacare Act. It’s not comprehensive national pharmacare, but it’s a significant first step: contraception is now covered, as is diabetes medication for the 3.7 million Canadians living with the disease, a quarter of whom struggle to afford treatment. (The plan could save loads of cash, too: the parliamentary budget officer estimates the government’s purchasing power could preserve more than $2 billion per year.) Holland’s next challenge? Hammering out funding agreements with the provinces.

3. Gouldie

3. Lesley Gouldie | CEO and president, Thornhill Medical

For making life support portable
Thornhill Medical’s portable, golf bag–sized life-support system, MOVES SLC, includes much of the equipment found in an intensive care unit, delivered on the move. The units were invaluable during COVID and now they’re saving lives on the battlefield, too. Under the leadership of Lesley Gouldie, Thornhill’s CEO as of 2019, the company landed a $356-million contract with the U.S. Department of Defence, the largest deal of its kind in recent years; the life-support system was recently deployed last November aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group. When the company and the feds donated Thornhill ICU units to Ukraine last year, the Ukrainian government called the device “the medical Javelin.”

4. Attia

4. Peter Attia | Physician and author

He’s helping us stay healthier, longer
Some aging boomers are searching for the fountain of youth—and Peter Attia might be their best chance of finding it. Attia, a Toronto-born, Stanford-trained physician whose wide-ranging health podcast, The Drive, has been downloaded more than 75 million times, pivoted to writing and quickly cornered the market on longevity science—or how to live better and, yes, longer. His book, Outlive, has been a mainstay of various bestseller lists for more than a year. It hinges on a philosophy he calls “Medicine 3.0,” which staves off disease through a combination of exercise, nutrition, sleep and mental well-being. He also promotes a radical yet intuitive philosophy of “healthspan” over lifespan: the notion that it’s great to live longer, but only if you’re fit enough to enjoy it.

5. Langley

5. Mary Langley | Co-founder, Switch Health

For giving Canadians take-home tests
In early 2020, Mary Langley and three of her colleagues launched Switch Health, maker of the at-home COVID test Canadians relied on to travel safely. Now that COVID tests are (largely) a thing of the past, Switch has created a new product: the first-ever at-home HPV test for women. It’s estimated that three-quarters of sexually active Canadians will develop HPV at some point in their lives. The virus is also one of the primary causes of cervical cancer, which is highly treatable if detected early. The Switch test, which costs $99, delivers results in three to five days. Viral activity aside, Switch also launched an at-home diagnostic diabetes test late last year, which allows patients to collect their own blood and ship samples directly to a lab for testing.

6. Raos

6. Stefan Raos | General manager, Moderna Canada

For securing a homegrown vax supply
When COVID came Canada’s way, the country’s dearth of domestic vaccine-manufacturing plants meant many of us had to wait months for our shots. Stefan Raos, head honcho at Moderna Canada, has been working hard to prevent that from happening again. Under his leadership, Moderna moved quickly to build a brand-new, $180-million mRNA vax-manufacturing facility in Laval, Quebec. (The project broke ground in 2022 and was completed this past February.) After clearing a gamut of regulatory approvals and certifications, the plant will begin production in 2025, with the ultimate goal of pumping out 100 million doses a year—for COVID, but also for the other mRNA-powered shots Moderna has in the pipeline. Look out, influenza, RSV and melanoma.

7. Dix

7. Adrian Dix | Minister of health, British Columbia

He’s rolling out a new GP-payment plan
Fixing Canada’s doctor shortage isn’t just a matter of attracting new blood to the profession; retention is key. In October of 2022, B.C.’s minister of health, Adrian Dix, announced that the province would replace its flat-rate payment model—where doctors receive $30 per visit, no matter the expertise required—with an optional longitudinal family physician payment model, which factors in time spent with patients and the complexity of their needs. (For example, doctors providing extra support to seniors or patients with mental-health conditions will be compensated extra). Following the news, the province’s family-doctor count shot up to 4,100, a single-year increase of 700. This past March, Dix also announced plans to improve conditions for nurses, setting minimum nurse-to-patient ratios in acute-care facilities to quell burnout.

8. Ross

8. Kathleen Ross | President, Canadian Medical Association

For fighting for physicians’ rights
ACMA presidents have just one year to make a helpful dent in health care, and Kathleen Ross has been busy. She’s asked provincial governments to reduce the extra admin work plaguing physicians. (According to the CMA, 75 per cent say unnecessary paperwork impacts their job satisfaction.) Ross is also promoting pan-Canadian licensure so docs can work where they’re most needed. She’s wading into more controversial territory, too, holding town hall–style consultations in cities like Toronto, Montreal and Halifax to get the public’s take on governments contracting private practitioners to reduce wait times. Ross has yet to take a firm position, but judging by her public letters and a YouTube video called “It’s Time to Talk,” it looks like she’s planning to tackle the issue by soliciting feedback first.

9. Chan

9. Teresa Chan | Dean, Toronto Metropolitan University School of Medicine

She’s educating a new class of Canadian family docs
It’s estimated that, right now, 6.5 million Canadians—that’s one in five of us—are without a primary physician. Teresa Chan, an emergency doctor, has plans to remedy the shortage as the appointed dean of one of Canada’s newest medical schools—at Toronto Metropolitan University. In the fall of 2025, when TMU’s School of Medicine opens, it’ll offer 94 undergraduate seats and 105 post-graduate positions annually, and include a curriculum specifically designed to train primary-care docs. When she’s not attempting to fix the health-care system via institutional channels, she’s doing so via board game: Chan is the creator of GridLockED, a game designed to prepare future ER docs for the chaos of emergency medicine.

10. Athwal

10. George Athwal | Surgeon, St. Joseph’s Health Care London

For bringing VR to the OR
You could say George Athwal has X-ray vision: for the past three years, Athwal, an orthopedic surgeon at St. Joseph’s Health Care in London, Ontario, has been pioneering some very futuristic 3D surgical technology. During shoulder replacements, Athwal dons a headset equipped with Stryker Blueprint MR Guidance software, which gives him a “mixed reality” view that superimposes the surgery plan on a patient’s body. This tech helps Athwal execute within two millimetres and two degrees of a preoperative plan, and extra widgets help him make adjustments on the fly. The system has only been used on shoulders so far—at the Mayo Clinic in the U.S. and two hospitals in France, in addition to St. Joseph’s—but, in the future, it could also be used for hip and knee replacements, as well as spinal surgery.


Cover_0524_FINAL

This story appears in the May issue of Maclean’s. You can buy the issue here or subscribe to the magazine here.