“It takes courage to do this job”: Sandra Allison is Island Health’s newest medical health officer

In November, Sandra Allison joined Island Health’s team of medical health officers, and will work alongside Mike Benusic to serve the central Vancouver Island region.

Dr. Sandra Allison

Most recently, Allison was Chief Medical Health Officer at Northern Health, and served as a regional medical health officer in Manitoba. She brings her experience working with Indigenous people and rural and remote settings to her new role.

“I am really pleased that Dr. Sandra Allison has joined Island Health,” said Dr. Richard Stanwick, Chief Medical Health Officer and Vice President of Population Health. “We are fortunate to have such an experienced health advocate to guide us through the current public health emergencies – COVID-19 and the drug poisoning crisis.” 

Allison is an accomplished public health and preventive medicine specialist and a community-centered physician. She will continue to work in primary care during her tenure as a medical health officer.

“I’m a family doctor and I try to understand patients’ experiences, to understand the data and help people identify solutions to their problems,” said Allison. “Medical Health Officers are similar – we are a doctor for the community. A community is a living organism, there’s parts that are vulnerable and parts that are strong. It’s up to me to share the evidence and help communities determine a better way forward.”

For the moment, Allison is getting settled in downtown Nanaimo, meeting community members and leaders, and being immersed in the local pandemic response.

“I’m really excited and thankful to be here. Public health and the contribution of medical health officers are really important at this time,” said Allison. “And it’s not just us, public health is everybody’s job. We all need to have courage and work together to respond to the health crises we face. Whether that’s individuals following COVID-19 recommendations, municipalities developing clean air policies, or neighbourhoods addressing stigma, we all contribute to the vitality and inclusiveness of our communities.”