Deputy provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has been appointed as the first woman in the role of provincial health officer (PHO). She will replace Dr. Perry Kendall, who will retire on January 31.
Dr. Henry is uniquely positioned to step into the role, with a career that includes tackling a wide variety of public-health concerns and challenges within Canada and abroad.
These include supporting the STOP polio program in Pakistan in 2000; working with the World Health Organization on the Ebola outbreak in Uganda in 2001; and, as associate medical officer of health for the City of Toronto, leading the operational response to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in the city in 2003.
Dr. Henry was appointed deputy provincial health officer in August 2014. In this role, she has guided the province through the worst wildfire season in decades, which affected air quality; guided the B.C. response to the West African Ebola outbreak, advised on the H7N9 bird flu in B.C., provided guidance on travelling in Zika-affected areas; and provided leadership on the overdose crisis.
She adds to the strong role Dr. Kendall developed in his time as PHO. His term has been called ‘legendary’ and he was a recipient of the Order of B.C. in 2005, marking his contributions to public health in B.C.
Together, Dr. Henry and Dr. Kendall are credited with earnestly working together to fight one of the deadliest challenges facing British Columbians today, the overdose crisis.
Prior to taking on the deputy PHO role, Dr. Henry was the interim provincial executive medical director of the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) and held a variety of public-health positions with the BCCDC from 2005 onwards.
The PHO is the senior public health official for B.C., and is responsible for monitoring the health of the population of the province and providing independent advice to the ministers and public officials on public-health issues that concern people in British Columbia.