Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. David Butler-Jones, will be keeping his job until at least 2014 following his recent reappointment by the federal government.
His new three-year term leading the Public Health Agency of Canada begins September 24.
Butler-Jones became a familiar face to Canadians during the H1N1 flu pandemic that hit Canada in 2009, appearing in daily news conferences and advertising campaigns. One of his primary responsibilities during the pandemic that stretched into 2010 was to communicate with Canadians about the flu virus.
"Dr. Butler-Jones has shown tremendous leadership in protecting and promoting the health and safety of Canadians," Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said in a news release announcing the appointment. "I look forward to continuing to work with Dr. Butler-Jones to strengthen Canada's health system, and I am pleased to announce his reappointment to this key role."
Butler-Jones has been chief public health officer since the position was created in 2004, partly because of the poor response of health agencies to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003. A national advisory committee report on SARS recommended the creation of the Public Health Agency of Canada and chief public health officer in order to better coordinate reaction to future health emergencies.
Terms for the chief public health officer are limited to five years but there is no limit on how many times he or she can be reappointed.
This is the second reappointment for Butler-Jones, whose term was extended in 2009 for two years.
Reporting to Aglukkaq, Butler-Jones leads a large government department that employs around 2,700 people. Its main functions are to protect the health of Canadians by helping prevent and control chronic and infectious diseases, responding to health emergencies and other health threats and to promote healthier living among Canadians.
Butler-Jones acts as an adviser to Aglukkaq on public health issues and is considered the point person to communicate with Canadians about them. As Canada's lead public health official, he spends a lot of time travelling the country and around the world to attend meetings and deliver speeches.
In the last year alone, between June 2, 2010 and June 1, 2011, Butler-Jones reported $134,249.19 in travel expenses.
His office said he was not available for an interview this week to speak about the reappointment but others in the public health field had positive things to say about it.
"I was delighted to hear the news. I think Dr. Butler-Jones has provided a lot of leadership and has really stepped up to the plate," said Debra Lynkowski, chief executive officer of the Canadian Public Health Association.
Lynkowski said the public health sector has noticed a lot of progressive changes since the chief public health officer position was created and particularly with Butler-Jones filling it.
"He's very collegial, he's very open to suggestions, and he really does have the ability to bring diverse groups to the table to reach consensus," she said. The ability to forge consensus is especially important in a job that requires the chief public health officer to liaise with many stakeholders and governments at the municipal, provincial, territorial and federal levels.
Good coordination was key during the H1N1 pandemic, and Lynkowski had high praise for how Butler-Jones managed the flu outbreak.
"His presence was constant, it was calm, it was reassuring," she said.
The government could have used this opportunity to appoint someone different to the job, but Lynkowski said continuity is good.
"I think that as we've seen, whatever he's doing, it's working," she said.