Who We Are: Dan Edwards
McMaster Family Practice
“Many of our patients are precariously employed, or precariously housed, and when one thing goes wrong it can all go downhill”
When medicine isn’t all we can do
A doctor’s office in downtown Hamilton offers something more than medicine: here you will also find a tireless trouble-shooter in Social Service Worker Dan Edwards.
Seven years ago, Dan managed local family and youth shelters for Good Shepherd Hamilton, and was active in community mental health and addiction services. He joined McMaster Family Practice as a System Navigator in 2012.
The practice, at 100 Main St. West, is part of McMaster University’s Department of Family Medicine.
From his welcoming office, Dan tackles any stressor impacting a person’s life and health. It’s a fluid role that offers people help with multiple stresses and strains, from quitting smoking to eviction prevention, applying for social assistance, filing taxes, contacting local shelters and food banks or scouring the web for a job or apartment.
When a dying patient needed one last embrace with her son, Dan located him in the Mae Ra Moe refugee camp in Thailand, and worked with Immigration Canada to expedite an ongoing resettlement application. He arrived in time to say goodbye to his mother.
Dan also works to help patients find, or keep, their home. Gentrification has spiked Hamilton rents and the wait for subsidized housing can be 10 years. Dozens line up for every listing, so he will contact landlords, view units and advocate on behalf of patients.
In one case, Dan managed to convince a social housing landlord to provide a new apartment for an elderly disabled tenant who had been evicted after failing to submit a form.
He helped introduce free weekly consultations with lawyers at McMaster Family Practice, a partnership with the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic and Legal Aid Ontario that is unique in Ontario. The medical-legal partnership recognizes stress from legal issues as a social determinant of health.
Dan credits the McMaster Family Practice for looking beyond medicine to treat health by addressing daunting social problems.
“Many doctors might not ask probing questions about a patient’s life circumstances because they don’t have an answer to those problems. These doctors ask the probing questions and hired me to help provide solutions. These are outstanding doctors.”