I first met Dr. Isra Levy sometime around 2000 when he and I crossed paths at the Academy of Medicine Ottawa but I really got to know him from 2002-2004 when he and I both worked at the Canadian Medical Association. At the time, he was the Director of CMA’s Office for Public Health and I was the Director of the Office for Women in Medicine.
Public Health is an interesting specialty in Medicine. One could argue that it makes more difference than any other branch of medicine since the measures it promotes – like clean water or vaccines – can have the biggest impact on personal health and health care. Public health concerns population health and reaches into all areas of our lives. I am privileged to have been a delegate to the World Health Assembly in Geneva on numerous occasions and have material on vaccines, road safety, maternal pre-natal screening, domestic violence – issues that exemplify the reach of these specialized physicians.
I have learned more about public health from Dr. Levy than I ever learned in medical school. When I worked with him daily, he made you think about the impact any measure could have on public and population health. Someone with such an inspiring breadth of knowledge can be intimidating but Dr. Levy has such a wicked sense of humour that I always felt forgiven for my mistakes.
All this preamble is meant to let the reader know that I feel I know Dr. Levy quite well so please believe me when I say that he is highly principled and ethical. When he tells us, as the City of Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health, that we should fund safe injection sites then we should listen to him. I learned years ago not to explain issues that Dr. Levy explained best so here is his public letter regarding safe injection sites and their value.
Dr. Levy’s letter makes it clear that Safe Injection Sites are an important, evidence-based pillar in the treatment of Substance Misuse. As a Psychiatrist involved daily in the treatment of youth with Substance Abuse Disorder, I want to know that they can access Safe Injection Sites when they need them. Otherwise, I am going to have to manage the risks of not having this important public health resource.
The problem is that Dr. Levy has two important City of Ottawa partners who disagree with him: the Mayor and the Chief of Police. This is formidable opposition and so, for all it’s worth, I’ve decided to use this small article to urge you to support Dr. Levy’s evidence-based approach. It takes a great deal of moral courage for Dr. Levy to oppose the views of the Mayor and the Police Chief, but he is doing the only thing a doctor in his position could do.
The opinion of Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health that the city needs Safe Injection Sites is good public health policy. As a physician in the community, I support this. As a physician who works daily with addicted youth, my patients require this measure. As a community, this will protect us and protect our families.
(Note: The attached picture of Dr. Levy is in the public domain.)