Dr. Alister Martin’s Medical Entrepreneurship for Equity

Alister Martin, MD, MPP, encapsulates a mindset that embodies the spirit of emergency medicine: the entrepreneurial spirit. It would be easy for anyone looking through his resume to be curious about where he gets his drive. Afterall, his work in the emergency department (ED) alone is inspiring and would leave very little time for anything else. Dr. Martin graduated from Harvard Medical School, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and the Harvard Affiliated Emergency Medicine Residency program. He most recently completed a White House Fellowship as senior advisor to Vice President Kamala Harris and is currently an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. If that’s not enough, he founded a novel organization—one of many over the years—called A Healthier Democracy in October 2022.

So, where does Dr. Martin get his drive?

“I just want to be a part of the solution,” said Dr. Martin. “Logically, I think you can only do emergency medicine for so long before you start to get really upset and moved by the everyday violence of poverty our patients face, or the fact we are the only doctors some of these folks will ever have. Emotionally, I’m moved by the fact that in communities like the one I grew up in in New Jersey, the margin for error is so thin, that a slip one way or the other could result in an irreparable situation. It’s my job to try and do what I can to put my thumb on the scale for the vulnerable in the types of communities like the one where I grew up to the extent that I can.” Dr. Martin is doing everything he can to make a difference in and out of the ED while fulfilling his potential.

Ever the humble leader, he’s quick to point out there have been a few failures along the way, too. “(These initiatives) are a sub segment of all the things that I’ve done and tried, and from the failures, and from the stumbles, and the falling on my face, I learned lessons to make these other things more successful.” From addiction treatment to helping just over 5,000 clinicians get their DEA-X waiver transfers to voting rights, Dr. Martin showcases how the toughest experiences in the ED can be lessons that benefit the lives of the most vulnerable.

One of the first initiative’s Dr. Martin spearheaded early in his career was called Get Waivered. As fate would have it, the inspiration for it came from his first week in residency. Dr. Martin treated a young woman who had become addicted to opioid pain pills. She was a young mom who had just given birth to her second child. “She was at her son’s daycare and basically fell down the stairs, broke her left ankle, and had this big surgery,” Dr. Martin recalled. “She was put on a bunch of opioid pills. This was in 2015 before we were really talking about the opioid epidemic. She came to our hospital because she had been basically misusing prescription pills for seven weeks. And her husband had some left over from an accident he had had.”

Topics: AddictioncareerEquityProfiles

About the Author

Danielle Galian, MPS

Danielle Galian, MPS, is editor of ACEP Now. She received her bachelor’s degree in broadcast communications, journalism, and English from Loyola University Chicago and her master’s degree in publishing from George Washington University. You can contact her at dgalian@wiley.com.

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