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Dr. Eileen de Villa, who led Toronto through the COVID-19 pandemic, announces resignation

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The doctor who led Toronto through the COVID-19 pandemic as the city’s top public health official is stepping down.

Dr. Eileen de Villa announced her resignation in a video message posted to social media on Tuesday.

Sporting one of her signature scarves, de Villa said that it has been her “distinct honour and privilege” to serve as Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health and lead Canada’s largest local public health unit since first being appointed to the role in 2017.

“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,” said de Villa, who will be concluding her duties on Dec. 31.

“And I am incredibly grateful as well, for the positive impact we've had on the health of this city. It has truly been the honor and the privilege of a lifetime to work alongside my remarkable colleagues here at Toronto Public Health and with other community providers, whether it's within city divisions, or other leaders and health providers throughout the city. And as well members of communities throughout the entire city of Toronto. I cannot thank you enough for all your support over these years. And for everything that we have done together.”

Toronto's top doc says she 'navigated significant challenges' with TPH

 

De Villa, who is 55, called the last eight years a “remarkable time.”

“Together with the team at Toronto Public Health, we've navigated significant challenges,” she said, noting that throughout it all TPH’s “unwavering focus has been on protecting the health and well being of Torontonians.”

“Everything from the COVID 19 pandemic, to changes in public health funding to the drug toxicity epidemic and the mental health crisis that is currently in our midst.”

De Villa went on to note that her decision to step down was not taken lightly and comes after “several months of heartfelt discussions” with her family.

She said that she’s “ready to embark on the next chapter” of her professional life “and to spend more time with my family.”

De Villa, who is an Adjunct Professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, has a husband and three children.

Toronto’s top doc also said that she feels that the city is in a “good position to transition to a new medical officer of health to lead Toronto Public Health, as we are stabilizing as an organization after the COVID 19 pandemic.”

Nonetheless, she did acknowledge that Toronto continues to face a number of public health challenges, “particularly emerging from the events of the last few years” and said she and her team will have much work to accomplish over the next six months.

“And I want to assure you that in the time that's left, I will continue to press on and make sure that together with the organization, we will continue to do our very best to meet the health needs of Torontonians,” she said.

De Villa said that she’s expects TPH will provide details about its next steps for selecting a new medical officer of health in the near future.

“Toronto Public Health has an incredible and strong team in place. And I'm confident that they will continue to lead in public health excellence,” she said.

“I wish you all the very, very best. And I know that my colleagues here at Toronto Public Health will continue to do their utmost as they always do to safeguard, protect and promote the health of this great city.” 

De Villa's contributions 'immeasurable,' says Board of Health chair

In a statement, Coun. Chris Moise said that he received de Villa’s letter of resignation with “mixed emotions.”

“As Chair of the Board of Health, I have had the privilege of working closely with Dr. de Villa, and I am deeply grateful for her unwavering support, guidance, and willingness to collaborate. 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,” wrote Moise, who called de Villa’s contributions to the City of Toronto “immeasurable” and said that over the last eight years 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,” the Toronto Centre rep said.

“Although Dr. de Villa announced her retirement today, she will continue shepherding us through this transitional period until the year's end, ensuring a smooth transition.”

Moise said that by the end of de Villa’s tenure TPH’s new Strategic Plan will be complete, The Works’ relocation will be nearly complete, and that a comprehensive transition plan will be implemented for her successor.

He said that he intends to bring forward a motion at the May 27 BOH meeting to form a search committee for the city’s next medical officer of health.

“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. Wishing you all the best in your future endeavours,” Moise said.

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