Dr. Sheela Basrur was appointed Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and Assistant Deputy Minister of Public Health in February 2004. She developed effective health promotion strategies and programs to deliver measurable results, including groundbreaking Smoke- Free Ontario legislation, the creation of Ontario’s first public health agency, and a major report on childhood obesity. In her 2005 Report to the Legislature, Dr. Basrur outlined the challenges required to rebuild Ontario’s public health system. Prior to her provincial role, Dr. Basrur was the first Medical Officer of Health in the amalgamated City of Toronto, leading a team of 1,800 staff from seven former municipalities to a common goal of disease prevention and health promotion. As Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Basrur’s exemplary leadership and expertise during the SARS crisis is well known. Dr. Basrur's skilled handling of the SARS outbreak earned her the respect of not only her public health colleagues here in Ontario, but also across North America and around the world.
After obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Western Ontario in 1979, she received her Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Toronto in 1982. After working as a general practitioner, Dr. Basrur travelled to India and Nepal, where she became interested in public health. Upon returning to Canada, she obtained a Master of Health Science degree from the University of Toronto in 1987 specializing in community medicine. She was also an assistant professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Toronto.
Dr. Basrur received many accolades and awards for her commitment and achievements, including the Order of Ontario; the Amethyst Award, the highest award granted to a member of the Ontario Public Service; honourary Doctorates from Ryerson University, York University and the University of Toronto; and honourary Diploma of Nursing from George Brown College; and the Woman of the Year distinction from the Greater Toronto YWCA. Sadly, she succumbed to cancer on June 2, 2008 at the age of 51.