Dennis Quaid, Health Activist
Actor Dennis Quaid takes on medical errors – and life with twins.
Dennis Quaid in The Express
These days, Dennis Quaid’s reading material includes the usual pile of movie
scripts, but also medical journals. “I don’t think either of us imagined a year
ago we’d be … involved in [this],” he tells WebMD.
The background reading was crucial not just for launching the new foundation
but also for preparing to testify before Congress recently. At a House of
Representatives hearing in May, he voiced his strong opposition to preemption
for pharmaceutical companies, which opponents say could undermine a patient’s
right to sue drug firms if harmed by a medication.
The health theme comes up, again, in his upcoming movie, The Express,
based on the moving, true story of Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis, played by
Rob Brown. While still a senior in college, Davis was drafted in 1961 by
the NFL, only to be diagnosed with leukemia at age 22. The talented, young
running back was never able to suit up and play the game professionally.
Quaid plays Davis’s hard-driving coach, toughest critic, and surrogate
father, who never stops pushing the All-American athlete to go for greatness
despite the color barriers of that time. But the movie is about far more than
“It’s about grace: living your life gracefully and dying gracefully. But
it’s also about race and race relations in this country,” Quaid explains. Even
though the movie is set in 1959, he adds, the messages it sends remain powerful
today. Davis became an important figure in the burgeoning civil rights
The Quaid Foundation
Also in May, Quaid joined other A-list celebrities in Beverly Hills to help
launch Stand Up 2 Cancer, an entertainment industry-backed initiative that aims
to speed up and fund research into the disease. A star-packed televised event
will air on network channels ABC, NBC, and CBS on Sept. 5. While he hasn’t had
any family members with cancer, Quaid, whose brother is actor Randy Quaid, says
he’s had a half-dozen friends face the disease, beginning with a seventh-grade
But most of his health activism is focused squarely on The Quaid Foundation,
with its mission of minimizing medical mistakes such as the terrifying error
involving the twins. They were lucky to survive. Dennis and Kimberly are all
too aware that a similar heparin overdose killed three children in an
Indianapolis hospital a year before.
The Quaid Twins’ Overdose
When they were just 11 days old, T. Boone and Zoe developed staph infections
and had to be hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, as
the world now knows. Because of human error and five missed opportunities to
verify the dosage, Quaid says, the twins were given 1,000 times the recommended
dose of heparin, a blood thinner routinely given to prevent clots from forming
in intravenous medication lines.