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Toronto’s top doctor to step down after 8 years on the job | CBC News

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Toronto’s medical officer of health says she will resign from her position at the end of the year after eight years on the job.

Dr. Eileen de Villa said Tuesday in a YouTube video that she will step down effective Dec. 31. De Villa has been the medical officer of health since 2017, leading Toronto Public Health (TPH).

“What can I say? It has been a remarkable time these past eight years. We have really come through quite the remarkable journey,” De Villa says in the video.

De Villa said the city’s public health unit has navigated “significant challenges” in that time, including the COVID-19 pandemic, changes in public health funding, the drug toxicity epidemic and the mental health crisis.

The medical officer said the decision to resign was not made lightly and it will allow her to spend more time with her family and embark on a new chapter in her professional life.

WATCH | Dr. Eileen de Villa announces resignation: 

De Villa said it’s a good time for TPH to transition to a new medical officer of health because it has stabilized as an organization after the pandemic. She said the Toronto Board of Health will “provide clarity” soon on the next steps to find a new leader.

She said TPH has a strong team in place and she believes it will continue to lead in public health excellence.

In the video, de Villa thanked the city and its people for the honour of serving as medical officer of health.

“To you, the people of Toronto, I am incredibly grateful, deeply, deeply grateful for the privilege of having served as your medical officer of health for these last several years,” she said.

De Villa became household name during pandemic

De Villa led the city’s response to COVID-19, becoming a household name with her advice to Torontonians on vaccinations and physical distancing.

She appeared along with former Toronto mayor John Tory and Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg at daily news conferences at the start of the pandemic to update the city on the status of COVID-19.

Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, gets vaccinated against influenza at the Metro Hall immunization clinic downtown in November 2022. At the time, she urged Toronto residents to get vaccinated against the flu as a combination of the flu, respiratory syncytial virus and COVID-19 continued to strain Ontario hospitals. (CBC)

In a news release Tuesday, the city said de Villa oversaw “multiple critical public health initiatives” during her tenure, guiding the city’s response to the pandemic and the largest vaccination campaign in the city’s history, addressing the drug toxicity crisis and championing initiatives to address health inequities. 

“Dr. de Villa has been recognized for her contributions to health equity, health communications and community engagement,” the city said in the release.

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow, in a post on X, formerly Twitter, thanked de Villa for her leadership, saying she guided TPH through “an incredibly difficult and uncertain time” during the pandemic.

“As mayor, I’m grateful for your work to keep our city healthy,” Chow said Tuesday.

 Coun. Chris Moise, chair of the Toronto Board of Health, said in a statement Tuesday that he received the news of de Villa’s resignation with “mixed emotions” and he is grateful for her support, guidance and willingness to work together.

“While her departure saddens me, I am excited for the opportunities that await her, and I am confident she will leave Toronto Public Health well-positioned for continued success,” Moise said.

Contributions ‘immeasurable,’ says board of health chair

Moise added that her contributions to the city are “immeasurable.”

“Over her eight years as Medical Officer of Health, she has navigated us through unprecedented challenges, most notably the COVID-19 pandemic. It was an incredibly difficult experience for everyone, especially Toronto Public Health staff, but Dr. De Villa consistently delivered critical updates with a reassuring voice that said ‘it is going to be okay,’ even when the path ahead seemed uncertain,” he said.

Moise said de Villa will help TPH transition to a new medical officer of health in her remaining months on the job, ensuring the public health unit’s news strategic plan is complete and a transition plan is in place for her successor.

Before she leaves, Moise said the relocation of The Works program, which provides harm reduction and supervised consumption services, from its current location on Victoria Street near Toronto Metropolitan University will be nearly completed.

Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto's medical officer of health, speaks at Union Station in downtown Toronto on April 4, 2022.
Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, speaks at Union Station in downtown Toronto on April 4, 2022. (Oliver Walters/CBC)

At the next Toronto Board of Health meeting on May 27, Moise said he will introduce a motion to have a search committee formed to look for a person to replace her.

“Dr. de Villa, thank you for your service to the City of Toronto. Your leadership in building a healthier, more equitable city has made a lasting impact, and your dedication to public health will be remembered and celebrated,” Moise said. 

The city said de Villa was named communicator of the year in 2021 by the the Toronto Chapter of the International Association of Business Communications. She also received the “Most Influential Filipina Woman in the World” award from the Filipina Women’s Network in 2022 and a Pioneer for Change Award from Skills for Change in 2023.

De Villa has a doctor of medicine and master of health science degree in health promotion from the University of Toronto, the city says.

She also holds a master’s degree in business administration from the Schulich School of Business at York University and is an adjunct professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

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