Dr. Peter Jüni stepping down as director of Ontario science table in a few weeks

Dr. Peter Jüni, who has led the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table since its formation in July 2020, says he has accepted a position at the University of Oxford in England for family reasons.

Accepted a job at University of Oxford to be closer to family, doctor says

Dr. Peter Jüni's new position at the University of Oxford starts July 1. (CBC)

The scientific director of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, Dr. Peter Jüni, says he is stepping down in a few weeks for family reasons.

Jüni — who has led the table since its formation in July 2020 — has accepted a tenured professorship at the University of Oxford in England, he told CBC in an interview Friday afternoon.

The doctor is originally from Switzerland, and he took the job to be closer to family in Europe, he said.

Earlier in the pandemic, Jüni became so frustrated with the government's response that he considered stepping down.

But he said this decision was an entirely personal one. Moving to England will mean he is closer to his parents and children in Switzerland, as well as his wife's parents in Slovakia.

As both their parents age, Jüni  said he realized it was time to be closer to them.

"I will be heartbroken to leave," he said. "If we didn't have, you know, our situation with family ... it would have been very difficult for me to be [moving], to be honest."

He described his time with the science table as the "single most important professional experience of my entire career," and said he'll greatly miss working with his colleagues. 

New job begins in July

Jüni will officially step down in the next few weeks, following a transition period.

His new position at Oxford — a clinical trials professorship at the Nuffield Department of Population Health — starts July 1.

Jüni is a physician and epidemiologist. He also works as director of a research centre at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto and as a professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at the University of Toronto. 

His work has focused on COVID-19 related clinical trials, observational studies, basic research and science communication since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. 

When he initially took the job, it was at a time where the understanding of the pandemic was much more limited, Jüni said.

His plan was to balance his science table work with his day job at St. Michael's Hospital, but he quickly realized that wouldn't be possible. 

"The reality, of course, was that it was a 24-7 job," he said. "We thought we would be doing it for six months ... and here we are 20 months later." 

Potential successor identified

Jüni says that hiring a replacement is already in the works.

While he couldn't say who's being considered as the next scientific director, Jüni said discussions are currently being held with that candidate.

"I'm confident that this will be a really, really good succession," he said, adding the decision is not yet definite.