Toronto's top doctor says she is taking a brief leave of absence in order to have surgery following the results of a mammogram.
In a statement issued Tuesday evening, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said pre-cancerous cells were discovered through a routine mammogram this past summer.
“These cells need to be removed through surgery, which I am scheduled to undergo tomorrow. Any further treatment will be determined after the surgery,” de Villa said in her statement.
While she could not yet say what course any further treatment might take, she is scheduled to return to work on Dec. 20.
She added that her story “is not unique.”
“Women throughout Toronto receive news like this every day. I want you to know that I am receiving great care and that Toronto Public Health is in good hands with our Deputy Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Na-Koshie Lamptey, who will be Acting Medical Officer of Health in my absence.”
She urged others to take part in routine screenings, as recommended by professionals, to catch health problems early.
“I am grateful that I took the time to get screened as it has allowed me to have early detection and treatment. I am planning to return to work on December 20 and will look forward to seeing you then,” de Villa said.
A regular fixture at news conferences alongside Mayor John Tory, de Villa has guided Toronto's response to COVID-19 since the pandemic began. She also makes regular appearances on CP24 and other outlets to answer questions from the public about COVID-19.
In a statement, Tory praised de Villa and wished her a speedy recovery.
“On behalf of all Toronto residents, I wish her all the best as she undergoes surgery tomorrow. I have no doubt she will make a speedy recovery and I look forward to continuing to work with her upon her return,” Tory said. “Her professionalism and balance have been key to Toronto's progress in fighting COVID-19.”
He said the city’s work to ensure that “as many Toronto residents as possible get vaccinated” will continue in the meantime.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford called de Villa a “true fighter” in a tweet and wished her well.
“This pandemic has shown us that Dr. @epdevilla is a true fighter,” Ford wrote. “On behalf of all Ontarians, I’m wishing her the very best and hope for her speedy return.”
Coun. Joe Cressy, who chairs the Toronto Board of Health, also praised the city’s top doctor for her leadership and wished her a quick recovery.
“Throughout the pandemic, Toronto's Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa has guided us every step of the way – from making tough calls to reduce COVID-19 transmission, to spearheading the most expansive vaccination program in our city's history. She has truly been ‘the people's doctor,’” Cressy said in a statement.
“I know all Torontonians will join me in sending her strength and wishing her a quick recovery following her scheduled surgery. I look forward to having Dr. de Villa – and her trademark scarves – back with Team Toronto soon.”
De Villa has served as Toronto’s medical officer of health since 2017. She is also an adjunct professor at the Dalla Lana School of Health at the University of Toronto.