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Panel Discussion:
Public Health

The pandemic has had disproportionate effects on our most vulnerable citizens. How can research collaborations with higher education institutions prepare public health officials to better understand the needs of these communities and design interventions that address inequity? What are some early learnings on the social determinants of health that require further academic exploration and public policy development?

Joe Cressy
Councillor Joe Cressy
Chair, Toronto Board of Health
City Councillor for Ward 10 (Spadina-Fort York), City of Toronto

In his role as Chair of the Board of Health, Joe Cressy oversees the work of Toronto Public Health - the largest public health unit in Canada. As Chair, he has worked to ensure that the City's response to the COVID-19 pandemic is comprehensive, equitable, and effective. Working closely with the Medical Officer of Health and Mayor John Tory, Mr. Cressy is a member of Toronto’s COVID-19 Strategic Command Team and Immunization Task Force, helping to lead the City’s response to the pandemic.

A City Councillor since 2014, Mr. Cressy is also a champion for building a better and more liveable city - investing in affordable housing, public transit, safe cycling infrastructure, new and improved parkland, expanded community services, affordable childcare, arts and culture programs, and combating the City’s growing overdose crisis. He successfully secured inter-governmental approval for Toronto's supervised consumption sites, supported bike lanes on Bloor Street, launched the King Street transit corridor, created thousands of new units of affordable housing, and established a tax-class program to protect live music venues and creative co-location facilities like 401 Richmond Street.

Mr. Cressy also serves on the City of Toronto's Economic and Community Development Committee, the Waterfront Toronto Board of Directors, and the Art Gallery of Ontario Board of Governors.

Andrew Boozary

Dr. Andrew Boozary

Executive Director, Population Health and Social Medicine, UHN, and Assistant Professor, Institute of Health Policy, Management & Evaluation (IHPME), University of Toronto

Dr. Andrew Boozary is a Primary Care Physician and Executive Director of Population Health and Social Medicine at the University Health Network (UHN). He holds academic appointments as an assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation (IHPME) at the University of Toronto and as an adjunct faculty member at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. Dr. Boozary is the founding editor-in-chief of the Harvard Public Health Review and has published in top academic journals including JAMA, BMJ and Health Affairs. He completed his medical training at the University of Toronto and health policy training at Princeton University (Master in Public Policy) and Harvard University (Master of Science). Dr. Boozary has maintained active research as a Visiting Scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and is a Senior Fellow at the Wellesley Institute.


At UHN, Dr. Boozary is working to develop, evaluate and scale new models of healthcare delivery for patients with complex health and social needs. During the pandemic, he also serves as co-lead of the Ontario Health Toronto Region COVID-19 Homelessness Response and is a member of the Canadian Medical Association's Post-Pandemic Expert Advisory Group. Prior to joining UHN, Dr. Boozary served in senior advisory roles in the provincial and federal government on public policy issues ranging from primary care reform to the implementation of pharmacare.

Sharon Cassar
Sharon Cassar
Academic Chair, School of Nursing, Seneca Polytechnic

Sharon Cassar is a caring, compassionate, and effective nurse, whose inspiring leadership embraces change and innovation through partnerships and collaboration. Her current appointment as the Academic Chair for the School of Nursing at Seneca Polytechnic has placed her in a position to lead and champion change. Her academic career has spanned over 18 years and she has over 35 years of nursing experience. Cassar’s clinical practice as a Family Nurse Practitioner is focused on vulnerable populations and women's health. Her research interests include strategies to effectively educate future nurses to meet the demands of the profession, while weaving the humanistic, caring elements of nursing into the critical clinical judgment required to provide safe and effective care. Cassar believes building partnerships across the public, government, academic, and health care agencies are vital to improving population health and quality of life.

Eileen de Villa
Dr. Eileen de Villa
Chief Medical Officer of Health, City of Toronto

Dr. Eileen de Villa is the Medical Officer of Health for the City of Toronto.  In this role, she leads Toronto Public Health, Canada’s largest local public health agency that provides public health programs and services to 2.9 million residents.


Dr. de Villa received her degrees as Doctor of Medicine and Master of Health Science (MHSc) from the University of Toronto and holds a Master of Business Administration from the Schulich School of Business. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

Maya.Mahgoub-Desai_headshot (2).jpg
Maya Mahgoub-Desai
Associate Professor and Chair, Environmental Design, OCAD University
Senior Urban Designer and Planner, Moriyama Teshima Architects

Maya Mahgoub-Desai is an Associate Professor and the current Chair of Environmental Design at OCAD University. She is a researcher and practitioner whose approaches to urban design, planning and design education are informed by her interdisciplinary research interests in public health and healthcare design; cultural narratives and socio-ecological models of urban development; and addressing equity in design through placed-based and inclusive studio teaching pedagogies.


As the Senior Urban Designer and Planner for the renowned firm of Moriyama Teshima Architects, Mahgoub-Desai has led several urban and peri-urban campus, community and municipal plans which focus on sustainable approaches, cultural resilience and a collaborative community engagement process. Her portfolio includes serving as a subject matter expert for Waterfront Toronto; developing master plans for Qatar's Education City, Surrey City Development Corporation, and the Town of Whitby; and creating campus plans for the University of Lethbridge, Wilfrid Laurier University, and Conestoga College. 


Mahgoub-Desai’s current research investigates human-environment behaviour and inclusive approaches to community collaboration in urban planning. She also remains actively engaged in professional and volunteer activities that focus on public health, equity, and racialized communities. 

Andrew Boozary
Joe Cressy
Eileen de Villa
Maya Mahgoub -Desai
Sharon Cassar
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