White Coat, Black Art

Stories that made a difference

White Coat, Black Art takes a look at stories that made a difference and one story that had a ripple effect in how women are screened for breast cancer.
Left to right: Michelle Di Tomaso is co-founder of Dense Breasts Canad, poet Amy Willans and the Lederman family. (Submitted by Michelle Di Tomaso/Angelique Rodrigues/MacEwan University/Lederman family))

As the regular season draws to a close, White Coat, Black Art looks back at and updates some of the programs that "made a difference" —  by sparking change and shedding light on under-reported issues.

The hidden dangers of dense breasts kick-starts a wave of policy changes

Michelle Di Tomaso is co-founder of Dense Breasts Canada, a group that spreads awareness about how breast density can affect women's health. (Submitted by Michelle Di Tomaso)

In September, we aired a story about the women who formed a grassroots organization called Dense Breasts Canada to inform women about the elevated risk of cancer associated with having dense breasts.

Much of their work was dedicated to lobbying provincial governments to notify women about their breast density. 

If women were not aware, they could not take additional measures to protect themselves. Jennie Dale, co-founder of Dense Breasts Canada gave Dr. Brian Goldman an update on the policy changes that occurred after the program aired. 

» Full story update

Poetry and peer support: How using her voice helped Amy Willans raise awareness about living with mental illness

Peer support worker Amy Willians at her desk at The Roundhouse, a co-working space at MacEwan University. (Angelique Rodrigues/MacEwan University)

Poetry was part of the prescription for Amy Willans, who was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder while in university in the 1990s. 

When Willans first spoke to Dr. Brian Goldman last December, she shared her experience of living with mental illness. The published poet and award-winning peer support worker says the interview led to new connections and frank conversations about stigma and mental illness.

Amy writes: "I didn't know my voice could reach so many people ... I've heard from doctors and nurses; from mothers, daughters, fathers and sons; from students at Stanford University; from a farmer in Saskatchewan; a medical journal out of Melbourne, Australia. I've been invited to speak at universities and high schools and conferences. I've been hired to write articles and poems. I've been asked to consult on government projects. I have recently received two advocacy awards for using my story to educate and inform the public. Wow. What a journey." Through it all, she has continued to write poems. 

Listen to Amy Willans' new poem Dear Body:

Amy Willans recites her poem "Dear Body"

Family's fight for better end-of-life care for people with severe disabilities leads to a review of their son's case

Tristan Lederman, centre, is surrounded by his sister and his parents, Mark and Jennifer Lederman. (Submitted by Lederman family)

In December, we aired an interview with Mark and Jenn Lederman of Toronto, who raised concerns about the quality of palliative care for people with complicated disabilities. Their son, Tristan, had cerebral palsy and died at home in 2017.

They told Dr. Goldman doctors seemed unprepared to manage their son's pain — a situation disability advocates say is not uncommon, even though more Canadians are choosing to die at home. 

Shortly after the program aired, the family was contacted by Ontario's Minister of Health and Long Term Care, Christine Elliott. They met with the minister and outlined their concerns.

The clinic involved in Tristan's palliative care is also conducting an independent medical review of his case to determine what can be done to improve care for others like him.


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