Immigrant doctors lead Canada’s fight against Coronavirus

Filipino-Canadian Dr.Eileen De Villa (left) is Toronto’s Chief Medical Officer and Dr. Teresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer for Canada.


Federal, three provinces and one territory

Teodoro ‘ Ted’ Alcuitas

Editor, philippine canadian

As Canada grapples with the Coronavirus pandemic, the public is faced with an abundance of information through the media and other sources – an almost 24/7 updates.

While politicians are naturally taking centre stage, a group of public service professionals are increasingly thrust into focus as the country tries to stem the tide of the virus.

They are the Chief Medical Officers, senior public officials whose role is to advise government on public health matters and manage the implementation of government priorities.

Of Canada’s ten provinces and two territories, four Chief Medical Officers are immigrants, including the top public health officer for Canada.

Dr. Teresa Tam, Canada

Dr. Teresa Tam is Chief Public Health Officer of Canada and head of the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC),

Born in Hongkong, she grew up in England where she obtained her medical degree at the University of Nottingham. She took up her residency at the University of Alberta and fellowship at University of British Columbia.

Tam, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, held a number of leadership positions at PHAC such as Assistant Deputy Minister of the Infectious Disease Prevention and Control Branch. She has played a leadership role in Canada’s response to public health emergencies including (SARS), pandemic influenza H1N1, Ebola and now COVID-19.

Dr. Eileen De Villa, Toronto

Leading Canada’s biggest city Toronto’s,fight against the Coronavirus is Filipina-Canadian Dr. Eileen De Villa.

The Boston-born de Villa grew up in Toronto where her parents, both medical doctors worked. The family briefly returned to the Philippines in 1972 but fled to Canada because of martial law.

Dr. de Villa’s career in the public health field spans over a dozen years, during which she served as Medical Officer of Health and Associate Medical Officer of Health for the Region of Peel and professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

She is an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto where her primary responsibility is the supervision of Public Health and Preventive Medicine residents.

She received her medical and public health training at the University of Toronto. She is certified by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in public health and preventative medicine. She also holds a Master’s degree in Health Science, a Master’s in Business Administration with a specialization in not-for-profit management/leadership and a certificate in Health Law from Osgoode Hall Law School.

Dr. Kami Kandola, North West Territories (NWT)

Indo-Canadian Dr. Kami Kandola is Chief Public Health Officer for Northwest Territories. She had served as the NWT Deputy Chief Public Health Officer since 2011.  Previously, she was  the Chief Medical Health Officer from 2009 to 2011, and also held the position of Stanton Medical Health Officer from 2003 to 2009.  She has extensive experience protecting the health of NWT residents, as well as the surveillance of disease conditions and monitoring of public health program activities. She served as the President of the Canadian Society for Circumpolar Health from 2012-2015. From 2005-2007 she was the President of the NWT Medical Association.  Dr. Kandola graduated from McGill University in the Faculty of Medicine in 1992. She trained in family medicine and holds a Fellowship in the College of Family Physicians of Canada. She also trained in public health and preventive medicine at Johns Hopkins University from 1996-98 and is American Board Certified in Preventive Medicine.  Prior to moving to Yellowknife, Dr. Kandola had an extensive career as an international health consultant, working with the Government of Canada, the World Health Organization, the World Bank and a number of charitable organizations working in the developing world. (Health Bridge)

Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan 

Dr. Shahab was born in the United Kingdom and studied medicine in the U.K., Pakistan and at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. He practised medicine in Pakistan and earned membership in the Royal College of Physicians UK in medicine before immigrating to Canada in 2001.

Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec

Born in Sainte-Thérèse in Quebec’s Lower Laurentians, Arruda was the only child of a Portuguese couple. His father worked in an aluminum plant and his mother had decided to move to Quebec in hopes of better economic conditions.

Arruda finished his doctorate in 1983 at the Université de Sherbrooke, and followed it with a specialization in community health and prevention in 1988.


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