New regional public health director talks priorities

By Gordon Lambie
New regional public health director talks priorities
(Photo : Courtesy)

Dr. Isabelle Samson, the new Director of Public Health for the Estrie region, says that although she had been thinking about taking on the position for a little while now, it was the way that the CIUSSS de l’Estrie – CHUS approached the COVID-19 pandemic that really inspired her to take up this new role.

“Honestly I’ve had it in mind for a few years now and I decided to take on the challenge when I saw that Dr. Poirier was looking for a person to take his place,” Dr. Samson said. “In the first wave of the pandemic I was quite impressed with everyone coming together and helping each other out. Although it was disastrous in society, that was a positive experience for me as a healthcare worker.”

Once a family physician, the new Public Health Director said that she made the shift to public health based on the idea that specializing in preventative medicine might help catch a lot of the things she was treating among her patients before they started.

“A lot of what I was seeing was preventable problems, so I thought that with my career oriented toward prevention I would be simplifying things,” she said, laughing as she noted, “It’s just as broad in public health as it was in family medicine, though.”

Looking ahead to her new role, Samson said that she has four big priorities that represent a mix of old and new for the department.

“Many aspects of our regular activities have stopped for two years,” she said, noting that although the public-facing work that public health has been doing during the pandemic has been important, it has consumed a lot of energy that normally would go into other initiatives.

“Before the pandemic, one of the priorities was mental health, and particularly youth mental health,” the director said. “Post pandemic, that can only be an even greater priority.”
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