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OPH's Dr. Vera Etches among four eastern Ontario medical officers receiving United Way awards

Other medical officers of health receiving Community Builder of the Year Awards are medical officers of health Dr. Robert Cushman, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis and Dr. Paula Stewart.
Dr. Vera Etches
Ottawa Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches. Photo/ Ottawa Public Health

Ottawa’s Dr. Vera Etches is among four eastern Ontario medical officers who will be honoured next week by the United Way for their work in bringing equity and social justice into healthcare practices.

On Tuesday, October 5, the United Way will host its 'This Is Community' virtual event to award Dr. Etches with a Community Builder of the Year honour.

“While are all impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are not all experiencing it in the same way,” Dr. Etches said in a statement. “The pandemic has emphasized the importance of working across many organizations and with communities facing the greatest needs to ensure fair health outcomes.”

“Ottawa Public Health will continue to listen and act on the message from our communities about the need for system change. Thank you to the United Way for recognizing the work of local public health units. This work could not be done without incredible community partners such as the United Way.”

Others receiving the award are:

  • Dr. Robert Cushman and the Renfrew County and District Health Unit
  • Dr. Paul Roumeliotis and the Eastern Ontario Health Unit
  • Dr. Paula Stewart and the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit

“The pandemic has been a time when we’ve called upon so many to step up and become heroes as has been in the case throughout our times in our field, the pandemic was no exception," Michael Allen, president and CEO of United Way East Ontario, told CityNews' The Sam Laprade Show on Friday. 

Even before the onset of the pandemic, the United Way said local public health authorities from across the region had recognized the complex impacts that poverty, systemic racism, discrimination and unequal access to information have had on an individual’s or group’s health outcomes.

"We’re not recognizing them because of their public health responsibilities — which they have all handled so magnificently, they should be recognized for that. But for those of us in the community sector, we really owe them a debt of gratitude and therefore this recognition, because of this championship during this pandemic,” Allen said.

But since the onset of the pandemic, Allen adds that these teams were compelled to be a guiding voice for how public health and other community institutions can better support the most marginalized people, and why this is critical for the health of communities at large.

“COVID-19 did not create inequities, but it exacerbated the chronic challenges that exist in our communities and brought them to the forefront,” Allen said in a separate statement in a news release. “Isolated seniors, kids without access to technology, women experiencing violence at home — these are all issues that were made worse by the pandemic. As we banded together to determine the emerging social needs in our communities — and adapted as they evolved — everyone here played a part in this collective, local response. Our region would not be where it is today without their expertise, innovation and perseverance.”

The event will be held online on Tuesday, between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. and is open to the community.

For more information on how to attend the online celebration, visit the United Way’s website.

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