New Brunswick

Dr. Eilish Cleary misses public health officer duties

Dr. Eilish Cleary says her firing last year as New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health was an incredibly difficult time for her and her family.

New Brunswick's former medical officer of health has won national award for her work in public health

Dr. Eilish Cleary said the provincial government's decision to fire her as the chief medical officer of health was very stressful. (CBC)

Dr. Eilish Cleary is reflecting on her firing last year as New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, saying it was an incredibly difficult time for her and her family.

"It has been a pretty stressful year, to be fired two weeks before Christmas is not the best end to one year or the start of the next," Cleary told Information Morning Fredericton.

"I can't deny it has been stressful and taken a toll on me and my family."

The reason for Cleary's dismissal in December has never been stated.

Department of Health officials have only said it was a personnel matter and Health Minister Victor Boudreau told reporters the decision was not politically motivated.

Cleary was studying the potential public health impact of the controversial herbicide glyphosate when she was put on leave in November 2015. 

Months after her firing, she's being recognized for "her outstanding contribution to public health and preventive medicine" by the Public Health Physicians of Canada.

Cleary is one of two people to receive the group's President's Award.

'Life has a way of throwing things at you'

Cleary holds a national award she was given for her work during her time as the province's chief medical officer of health. (Cari Blanchard/CBC)

When asked if she felt the award was vindication after her firing, Cleary said she's trying not to feel bitter.

"Life has a way of throwing things at you," said Cleary.

"You can either let it crush you or you can rise above that and become bigger and stronger and that's what I've been working on."

"Feeling bitter or looking for vindication I think is backward looking," added Cleary.

Since that time, the former chief medical officer of health for the province has worked on a short-term contract for the federal government as a specialist focused on First Nations health issues.

She's now working part-time as a family physician in Fredericton and McAdam.

"I've had amazing support from the people of New Brunswick. I can't say [the firing] is worth it, but it's almost worth it to see how caring people around are," Cleary said.

Dr. Cleary has won the President's award from the Public Health Physicians of Canada. 14:35

Cleary emphasized that she shares the win with her former team at the Department of Health.

Cleary was hired as the province's chief medical officer of health in 2008. She was initially put on leave on Nov. 2 and informed of her termination on Dec. 7.

The provincial government reached a confidential settlement with Cleary in January.

Cleary previously told CBC News she was fired "without cause" and that she wasn't informed of any personnel issue involving her conduct.

More to know on glyphosate: Cleary

Cleary said there's not a good enough understanding of chemicals, such as glyphosate, in public health.

"Glyphosate is one of the pesticides that is used extensively and I think the more we know about it the better," said Cleary.

She added that all the studies she worked on during her time with the province were collaborative within the department.

Cleary acknowledged that the work she did during her time as chief medical officer of health sometimes made her unpopular.

"When a person who is looking long term and the health of the people in the long term ... it may be perceived as going against the grain," said Cleary.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story appeared under the headline "Dr. Eilish Cleary says firing devastated her and her family." In fact Cleary did not say she was "devastated" by her firing, only that it was difficult for her and that she misses her role at Public Health.
    Oct 31, 2016 2:59 PM AT

With files from Information Morning Fredericton

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