Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s public health chief, taking leave of absence for medical treatment.
In the past few weeks, there have been two notable health news stories: a woman died of a drug overdose, and the government of Canada’s chief medical officer of health—Dr. Eileen de Villa—is taking a leave of absence for medical treatment.
The death involved the opioid fentanyl, the same substance in the death of Ontario’s former Progressive Conservative premier and drug addict Rob Nicholson.
De Villa is no stranger to controversy. She has had to resign as chair of the scientific advisory committee on vaccines, after her research on the safety and efficacy of the HPV vaccine was criticized. She has been criticized for not being transparent about her own research and being unable to defend it.
Yet, as she prepares to do her annual leave of absence, she has emerged as a national leader in her field.
Her departure comes as a high point of the fight against the spread of the Zika virus, which has spread to more than 30 countries. Her actions have gone a long way in pushing public health policy in the right direction, and in educating Canadian women about the seriousness of the outbreak.
Despite a steady flow of news alerts and warnings about the crisis, and a growing number of Canadians calling in to Canadian Public Health Association research staff to report being sexually active, de Villa’s actions have been mostly ignored.
The Canadian Press spoke with de Villa on her departure, and with Dr. Bonnie Henry, her replacement in the public health ministry.
This piece contains some information which may be upsetting to some readers.
Can you go into the details of what happened, please?
I’ve been asked some questions in the past about my decision to take a leave of absence for medical treatment, and I will be addressing those questions today.
We’re in the middle of an epidemic, and the virus can spread from person to person, as it did in the case of the