Dr. Wajid Ahmed named Ontario's new associate medical officer of health

The man who has been one of the faces of the COVID-19 pandemic in Windsor Ont., is resigning to take on a new role.

Ahmed stepping down as Windsor-Essex medical officer of health as of Oct. 1

Dr. Wajid Ahmed, Windsor-Essex County Health Unit medical officer of health, will take on a new role as Ontario's associate chief medical officer of health this fall. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

The man who has been one of the faces of the COVID-19 pandemic in Windsor, Ont., is stepping down to take on a new role.

Dr. Wajid Ahmed is resigning as medical officer of health for the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit to become Ontario's associate chief medical officer of health.

His resignation is effective Oct. 1, Board of Health Chair Gary McNamara announced Friday morning during a virtual press conference.

"It is with gratitude, sadness, but also pride that I bring this news to the community," he said.

Ahmed anticipates that his immediate concern in the new role, where he will work with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore, will be trying to protect the public and the health-care system amid the fourth wave of the pandemic.

"The critical stuff is the economy, some of the critical stuff is ensuring that our children continue to get the education. They have lost many, many months during this pandemic," he said. "It's a big loss."

Bittersweet decision, Ahmed says

Ahmed has been Windsor's medical officer of health since 2017. He said the decision to take on the new position was a tough one.

"As much as I am happy, I'm also sad to leave a community that is very, very supportive and have gone through some of the difficult times in the pandemic," he said.

Windsor-Essex is one of the areas of the province most affected by the pandemic, with the fourth-highest cumulative COVID-19 case rate among 36 public health units.

WATCH | Dr. Ahmed talks about his community of Windsor-Essex ahead of new role: 

Dr. Wajid Ahmed steps down as Windsor-Essex medical officer of health

2 years ago
Duration 0:37
Windsor-Essex's top doctor announced he's stepping down from the role to pursue a new one as Ontario's associate chief medical officer of health.

Ahmed's tenure in Windsor included navigating a COVID-19 crisis in the migrant farm worker population the summer of 2020, and a deadly second wave that affected many of the area's long-term care and retirement homes.

When case counts soared in December, Ahmed used his authority as medical officer of health to shut down in-person learning before the province mandated school closures.

The region was largely spared in the third wave compared with other jurisdictions, which Ahmed has attributed to an accelerated vaccination rollout and community co-operation. But the vaccination rate for people 12 and up hit a plateau this summer, and remains 3.5 points below the provincial figure.

Beyond his work related to the pandemic, Ahmed led the development of the Windsor-Essex Community Opioid and Substance Strategy, which is working on setting up a supervised consumption site in downtown Windsor.

Ahmed said he is confident the health unit can continue to steer the region "in the right way."

"They have done an amazing job keeping our community safe," he said. "I may be the face, but all of the hard work, that has been done by our staff."

Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, the former medical officer of health for Haldimand-Norfolk, will be the acting medical officer of health.

Nicole Dupuis, CEO of the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, said the goal is to have a permanent medical officer in place by the end of the year.

"We are working expeditiously on the recruitment process," she said.


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