Sitting in a bustling West Vancouver coffee shop, Dr. Maryam Zeineddin exudes enthusiasm. Her family medical practice, built and opened with her friend Dr. Nicole Barre, is the Ambleside Medical Centre (AMC). The mission for the clinic is to bring preventative health practices to the forefront.
For Zeineddin, what is required is a re-imagining of the health care system, and a future in which patients will be empowered to control their own unique needs. “It is not far away, in some ways, actually,” she says. “Patients will be able to access all their own charts. That is coming right around the corner. It will be a matter then of teaching everyone how to understand the information there. After all, we have a banker, but we do almost all of our banking ourselves. Our health care can be done in a similar way.” Zeineddin is even working on an app, which will facilitate patients’ abilities to monitor their own files, and even educate themselves on what medical screening tests they should be considering.
Zeineddin has had a growing dissatisfaction, over more than a decade of general family practice, with how the health care system seemed completely inadequate when it came to preventative medicine. “I would see as many as 30 patients a day,” she says, “and the norm is ‘diagnosis and Band-Aid.’ I kept on thinking, ‘There has to be a better way—to teach and empower patients to advocate for themselves, and be like a general manager for their own unique health plan, with the physician as a quarterback.’” After a bleak day in which she had to deliver bad news to one of her patients, Zeineddin went home and tried to sleep that night, but her first thought the next morning was, “We need to change how things are done.” Preventative care is currently aimed predominantly at high-risk patients, who are already in the throes of a malady or disease. But what if it was made part of the plan from birth, so that each person could learn to co-ordinate her own methods, and advocate for herself?
These are “tough, tough issues that often become political,” says Zeineddin. “Prevention is a hot topic, with so much marketing, and, I must say, fear-based marketing. And resources in the health care system are stretched very thin already. Evidence-based treatments at the forefront, along with even small ways to grow preventative strategies: that’s the way forward.” A cornerstone of her approach to a new system is the need to have all allied health care providers (family doctors, specialists, physiotherapists, psychologists, and the list goes on) working synergistically to provide a plan that is suited to each individual patient. For the first-ever Women’s Preventative Health Conference in Vancouver, created by Zeineddin and taking place on June 3, 2017, there are guest speakers from several different areas of health care, and each one is “passionate, dynamic, and local,” she says. “Local because this conference is dedicated to local patients. My wish is to see it grow, organically, into other communities as well.” And judging by her determination and passion, it certainly will. As she says, “It’s just a baby now. But I have big dreams for it.”
Zeineddin has also begun a non-profit program, associated with the clinic, called Zili (Zeineddin Improve Life Initiative) Health. The purpose is to create or promote conferences, seminars, and other educational opportunities—locally, and then beyond her own community. There are six pillars in the Zili program: physical activity; mindfulness; nutrition; health screening; connection; and intention. Taken as a whole, they constitute a potentially profound change in the way people understand, and manage, their own health care.
She is clear about what this all means. “Preventative health is not only about such things as diet and some exercise,” Zeineddin says. “We have to go deeper, to look at how women are living their lives. What we are currently doing is not working very well; it is frustrating for doctors, but patients are not getting the best care. Preventative health has to be embedded into the system to make the whole thing more effective, and better for everyone.”
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