York’s new top doctor ‘hopeful and optimistic’

York Region’s new top doctor is “very hopeful and optimistic” about 2022 but is reminding the community about the need to “stay vigilant” over the coming holidays.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barry Pakes was appointed to the position effective November 18 after working in York Region as a public health physician in support of the COVID-19 pandemic response for the past year.

“I share parents’ excitement in being able to vaccinate our children five to 11 years old. Vaccination will not only provide them protection from COVID-19 but also from needing to isolate from family, friends and school if they are exposed to a case,” he says.

“The holiday season is traditionally a time of gathering and it is critically important we continue to stay vigilant with masking and other public health measures to ensure a great start to 2022. Vaccination remains our best protection against COVID-19 and York Region is ready to deliver vaccines to children 5 to 11 years old, as well as boosters to our seniors, and everyone else who is looking forward to safely gathering for the holidays.”

Prior to joining York Region Public Health, Pakes was the program director of the Public Health and Preventative Medicine Residency Program at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, which trains physician specialists to be medical officers of health. He has held various senior positions, including associate medical officer of health roles at the Regional Municipality of Halton, the Regional Municipality of Peel and Middlesex-London Health Unit, and deputy chief medical officer at the Government of Nunavut.

Pakes practices clinically in urgent care and emergency medicine and has a diploma in tropical medicine and hygiene. Under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, the medical officer of health provides public health expertise, supports health surveillance, population health and infectious disease control initiatives on issues of public health importance. A medical officer of health has the authority to issue orders to protect the public with respect to health hazards, infection prevention and control, and communicable diseases.

Dr. Karim Kurji, York’s previous medical officer of health, retired earlier this year. Dr. Richard Gould served as the region’s acting medical officer of health and will resume his previous role as York’s associate medical officer of health. “We look forward to continuing to work with Dr. Pakes and are proud to have him represent York Region on public health matters,” says York CAO Bruce Macgregor. “I wish to thank Dr. Gould and the entire York Region Public Health team for their commitment and resiliency during these leadership changes.”

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