York’s top doctor announces his retirement

At a special meeting of York Regional Council, York Region Medical Officer of Health Dr. Karim Kurji announced his retirement, effective Thursday, September 30, 2021.

“On behalf of York Regional Council, I want to thank Dr. Kurji for his professionalism, dedication and commitment to supporting the health and well-being of the more than 1.2 million residents who call York Region home,” said York Region Chairman and CEO Wayne Emmerson. “With almost four decades of public service, there are so many accomplishments to highlight. However, for York Region, Dr. Kurji’s legacy will be his instrumental role in our ongoing fight against COVID-19.”

Over the past 18 months, Dr. Kurji has been leading York Region’s COVID-19 response. Under his leadership, key elements include:

  • Establishing real-time reporting systems and leveraging data to make informed decisions related to the local pandemic response
  • Focusing resources and efforts throughout the pandemic on contact tracing and case management to interrupt the chains of transmission of COVID-19; an essential public health tool for controlling the virus
  • Supporting federal and provincial direction and mandates related to various public health measures, including the Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework and the recently announced Roadmap to Reopen plan
  • Administering almost 913,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, vaccinating almost 75% of York Region residents (age 12+) with at least one dose and almost 21% of York Region residents (age 12+) receiving both doses of the COVID-19

Dr. Kurji joined York Region in 2005 as an Associate Medical Officer of Health and shortly after was appointed the Region’s Medical Officer of Health.

In addition to his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, York Region has benefited from Dr. Kurji’s guidance to introduce and advance many important public health programs and services. These include:

  • Implementing the new Ontario Public Health Standards
  • Leading the H1N1 influenza pandemic response
  • Responding to emerging new diseases such as West Nile virus, Lyme disease and Zika virus
  • Responding to a growing opioid crisis through the development of York Region’s Opioid Action Plan

Prior to joining York Region, Dr. Kurji held senior positions with the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, including Ontario’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health and Physician Manager, Population Health Services. During his time with the province, he also served briefly as Chief Medical Officer of Health and Acting Assistant Deputy Minister of Health.

Dr. Kurji is a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of the United Kingdom and a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

“COVID-19 is a public health crisis like one we have never experienced, but with the support of York Regional Council, we have been able to continuously respond to the ever-changing needs of our community,” Dr. Kurji said. “I have also been enormously blessed to have the privilege of working with such talented York Region staff over the past 16 years. Whilst I am considered the “face” of the York Region COVID-19 response, there continues to be many, many staff working tirelessly to keep our communities safe, both during and after this pandemic ends.”

Dr. Kurji initially planned his retirement for early 2020, but when the pandemic was declared, he postponed retirement to help lead York Region’s Public Health response.

Recruitment for Dr. Kurji’s replacement is underway.


Photo: York’s top doctor retires this fall. Dr. Kurji plans to spend more time with his family and grandchildren, as well as resume some hobbies sidelined during the pandemic. 

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