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Dennis Quaid, Health Activist

Actor Dennis Quaid takes on medical errors – and life with twins.
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Dennis Quaid on Medical Mistakes

Less than a year has passed since his twins survived the highly publicized two-time accidental overdoses of the blood-thinner drug heparin, but those few months have dramatically upended Quaid’s life.

He’s no longer just Dennis Quaid, actor, husband, father. He’s added ‘’health activist” to that list, and he takes his new role seriously. He and Kimberly have since founded The Quaid Foundation -- thequaidfoundation.org -- dedicated to helping minimize the kind of medical mistakes in hospitals that befell their newborn twins.

“There’s a real problem going on,” Quaid says of the drug errors and other medical mistakes that are surprisingly common in U.S. hospitals, “and it needs to be addressed. I just don’t want to see something like this happen to someone else’s kids.” (Besides the twins, Quaid has a 16-year-old son, Jack, from his previous marriage to fellow actor Meg Ryan.)

The overdose incident was equally life-changing for Kimberly, a former real estate agent who’s been married to Dennis since 2004. As upsetting as it all was, and she still wells up when she talks about it, “I feel like we’re here for a reason, that this happened for a reason.”

That reason? Nothing less than to change the way health care is practiced in the United States.

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.

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