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York Region appoints new medical officer of health

Dr. Barry Pakes, who has held various senior level positions, joined York Region as a public health physician in support of the COVID-19 pandemic response last year
Dr. Pakes
Dr. Barry Pakes. Supplied photo/York Region

York Regional Council has appointed Dr. Barry Pakes as York Region Medical Officer of Health, effective immediately.  This position requires approval from the Minister of Health, and was approved on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the health and well-being of our communities has been Regional Council’s number one priority,” said York Region Chairman and CEO Wayne Emmerson. “We continue to rely on public health guidance and expertise from across all levels of governments and are confident the leadership of Dr. Pakes will deliver on the high-quality public health care our residents and businesses both deserve and expect.”

Dr. Pakes has worked at York Region as a Public Health Physician in support of the COVID-19 pandemic response for the past year.

Prior to joining York Region Public Health, Dr. Pakes was the Program Director of the Public Health and Preventive Medicine Residency Program at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, which trains physician specialists to be Medical Officers of Health.

Dr. Pakes has held various senior level positions, including Associate Medical Officer of Health roles at the Regional Municipality of Halton, the Regional Municipality of Peel and Middlesex-London Health Unit. He also served as Deputy Chief Medical Officer at the Government of Nunavut. 

Other educational leadership positions include Global Health Lead, Post-Graduate Medical Education and MD Program at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine and Chair of the Continuing Professional Development Committee for Public Health Physicians of Canada.

Dr. Pakes is a graduate of McGill University and received his Doctor of Medicine from the University of Toronto, and a master’s degree in public health from Harvard University. He completed specialty training and became a fellow in Public Health and Preventive Medicine in 2007. In 2014, he completed his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Public Health Ethics from the University of Toronto. 

Dr. Pakes practices clinically in urgent care and emergency medicine and has a diploma in tropical medicine and hygiene.

Regional Council, as York Region’s Board of Health, is responsible to carry out its legislative duties and responsibilities under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.

Under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, the Medical Officer of Health provides public health expertise, supports health surveillance, population health and infectious disease control initiatives on issues of public health importance. Under the Act, a Medical Officer of Health has the authority to issue orders to protect the public with respect to health hazards, infection prevention and control and communicable diseases. 

Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region’s previous long-standing Medical Officer of Health, retired earlier this year. Since Dr. Kurji’s retirement, Dr. Richard Gould has been York Region’s Acting Medical Officer of Health. Upon Dr. Pakes’ appointment, Dr. Gould will now resume his previous role as York Region Associate Medical Officer of Health. 

“We look forward to continuing to work with Dr. Pakes and are proud to have him represent York Region on Public Health matters,” said Bruce Macgregor, York Region Chief Administrative Officer. “I wish to thank Dr. Gould and the entire York Region Public Health team for their commitment and resiliency during these leadership changes.” 

The Regional Municipality of York consists of nine local cities and towns and provides a variety of programs and services to 1.2 million residents and 54,000 businesses with 650,000 employees. More information about the Region’s key service areas is available at