The Ottawa Citizen by Kelly Egan

Arnprior Dentist Offers Best Cure For Sickly U.S. Health Care System Vaughan Glover Outwits Our Neighbour’s Sharpest Minds to Win $10,000 Contest

Kelly Egan
The Ottawa Citizen

Monday, November 03, 2003

In late October, in a conference room in Portland, Oregon, a room full of brainiacs — 50-page reports in hand, PhDs in back pocket — gathered in an unusual test of intellectual might.

Ten finalists, whittled from more than 100 entries, were tackling an Olympian problem: how to cure the sickly U.S. health care system. There was a nursing hotshot from Yale University, a professor emeritus from Purdue, a number of well-pedigreed physicians, an 11-member team from Loma Linda University in California and a five-member squad from Emory University in Atlanta.

There was a United Church minister, a psychologist, a holistic nutritionist and a health care lawyer: the biographical notes on the 10 a terrifying litany of overachievement.

And there was Vaughan Glover. Mr. Glover is not a doctor. He is not an American. He did not attend an Ivy League school. He is not affiliated with any university. Not only is he a mere dentist, he is a dentist from Arnprior, working in an office across from a Canadian Tire and a chip wagon.

Here is the really freaky part: Dr. Glover won the contest, taking home $10,000 U.S. to his cosy office on Arthur Street and earning reviews for “brilliance.”

The year-long contest was cooked up by Kathleen O’Connor, a Seattle health care consultant. While completing a book on health care reform, she was apparently struggling with the final chapter, titled: Where do we go from here?

Well, to Arnprior, don’t you know?

Dr. Glover, 53, has been practising dentistry for 30 years and raised three children in Arnprior with his wife Betsy.

One day last week, during his lunch break, he attempted to explain how a small-town dentist from another country could possibly outwit some of the sharpest minds in the U.S.

“I’ve spent 10 years, really, boiling this thing down,” said Dr. Glover, wearing a white lab jacket over a shirt and tie. “It’s really frustrated me that the patients seem to be losing control of the health care system.”

He has spent so long thinking and researching the fundamental ills of health care in North America that he has amassed a 200-page manuscript, which he hopes to turn into a book, called Journey to Wellness.

Dr. Glover’s ideas are deceptively simple. He is proposing what he calls an “Informed Patient Centered Model,” which, in reality, is a tectonic shift in how care would be delivered.

Currently, Dr. Glover sees the system working roughly like this: In this country, we have a Canada Health Act, which sets out several lofty principles, the most sacred of which is universality. A group of politicians decides, on an ongoing basis, how much money heath care is entitled to; another regime decides how much doctors will make and how many hospitals we can have; another group decides — because resources are limited — what expensive tests will be available to whom.

At the end of the food chain, in walks the patient, getting whatever care the system is able to eke out. If he needs to wait a year for a hip replacement, so be it: the care is universal, it’s accessible, it’s affordable; it just isn’t very good.

Dr. Glover’s model reverses the whole hierarchy. Start with patients. Give them loads of information — in person, online, in books — about what promotes good health.

Give the patient a “primary provider coach,” which could be a nurse or a nurse practitioner. Together, the team works on the whole idea of supporting good health, not just curing disease. And so the very definition of “health,” so different today than 20 years ago, he argues, goes hand-in-hand with the new approach.

Behind the coach provider is a ring of help: doctors, hospitals, alternative care providers, church and charity groups, school, private insurance companies, family and friends.

To make the system more financially responsible, Dr. Glover is suggesting personal savings accounts reserved for health. You need care? This drives home the point that someone is paying for all that free help.

A patient with a cold, for instance, would explore a range of treatment and, rather than accept a prescription willy-nilly, would make a judgment about whether to pay for a pill from his electronic account.

The healthy person can roll their funds over to the next year. In typical Canadian fashion, Dr. Glover’s ideas are receiving more attention now that he’s made a splash in the U.S. “This has opened up a lot of doors,” he said.

Still, he described Canadian health officials as “very, very hesitant because this is a time bomb. There are people out there who believe you cannot change the system.”

In particular, he’s been told that tampering with the concept of universal health care is “political suicide.”

He’s careful not to step into the minefield of public-versus-private medicine in Canada, but rather puts it this way: “I don’t think that’s up to me to decide. I think patients should decide what they need and I think governments should do everything they can to support the health of the people.”

Dr. Glover wants to spend the money on a professional editor and hopes to publish the book next year. Maybe
then, someone will be listening.

Contact Kelly Egan at 596-8496 or by e-mail, kegan@thecitizen.canwest.com

© The Ottawa Citizen 2003

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