It’s a long way, in every respect, from Campbell River, BC to St. Francisville, Louisiana.
Dan Martinusen, Vancouver Island Health Authority renal pharmacist and chair of the BC Renal Agency’s Pharmacy & Formulary Committee since 2001, has first-hand experience of that distance.
At the tender age of eight, Dan moved with his family to the deep south of the US – his father was a pulp and paper mill manager. For the next seven years – what Dan calls his “Huck Finn” years – he enjoyed a carefree lifein Cajun country, playing in the woods and swamps and fishing after school. Channelling his keen interest in outdoor pursuits, Dan became a scout and eventually achieved the highest distinctions awarded by both the US and Canadian scout organizations.
Life in the southern US also provided some moments of significant culture shock. “In those days, you could still see Ku Klux Klan members handing out brochures at the football games,” recalls Dan.
At 15, on his return to school in Powell River, Dan had another shock when he discovered his math and science skills weren’t up to the standards of his Grade 11 classmates, and he was forced to repeat some coursework.
“Back then, Louisiana ranked 49th among the 50 states for educational standards,” explains Dan. “But the way they saw it, at least they ranked higher than Mississippi.”
After taking a degree in pharmacy at UBC, Dan worked for a number of years as a pharmacist at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver. His first experience with renal pharmacy occurred in 1999, at Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria. Right away, he knew he had found his niche.
“For a pharmacist, renal is a very appealing area,” says Dan. “It offers a lot of diversity for pharmacology, and uses much of our disease-based therapeutic knowledge.”
Dan completed his doctorate degree in pharmacy in 2007, which enabled him to become a full-time renal pharmacist at VIHA. Through the BC Renal Agency, he has led a number of significant provincial pharmacy initiatives. These include the development of an anemia protocol, which resulted in significant cost reductions for the provincial renal program, and the provincial roll-out of medication reconciliation for all renal patients in BC – for which Dan and his team recently received the BC Patient Safety and Quality Council’s 2011 Across the Province award. The team’s med rec initiative was also used by VIHA for accreditation, and was noted as a leading practice.
"My work in the renal program is the most rewarding work I’ve been involved with,” says Dan. “If you’re interested in making a change to improve things, the renal team is very receptive and supportive, locally and provincially. The BCPRA is small enough to be nimble but large enough to have an impact. Once you get a taste for affecting a positive change, it is hard to stop."
When he’s not at work, Dan enjoys time with his wife and two children on their sailboat, Maleesh. Sailing affords lots of opportunities for Dan and his family to examine the many different types of jellyfish, starfish, anenomes and other fascinating inhabitants of BC’s coastal waters.