Faculty of Medicine sparked Dr. Kieran Moore’s passion for public health
Posted on Thursday, October 28, 2021
By Michelle Read
Dr. Kieran Moore applied an Ottawa spin to the adage of “when in Rome” as he was studying for his medical degree in the nation’s capital.
“I’d hike down to the canal, skate over to Dows Lake and walk to my rotations at the Civic Hospital,” recalls Dr. Moore of his student days at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine.
Moore immersed himself in medical student life in Ottawa, ultimately building foundations that would set him on a course to his greatest calling yet: the role of chief medical officer of health for Ontario, overseeing the health of an entire province during a worldwide pandemic.
Embracing student life
Dr. Moore first arrived in Ottawa to be a page in the House of Commons, while concurrently studying science at uOttawa.
“I was attracted to Ottawa because it was a national capital, a beautiful, vibrant city surrounded by nature, and bilingual—I was already bilingual at the time and I very much enjoyed the opportunity to speak French,” he says. After two years he was accepted into Ottawa’s MD program. “The reputation of the medical school has always been excellent,” he says.
An active and engaged student, Dr. Moore embraced student life, competing in bed races on the Ottawa River, acting in skits in the Faculty’s medical show, and involving himself in the program’s curricula. Meanwhile, he took every opportunity to broaden his medical horizons.
Emergency medicine was his main interest, putting him on the very front lines of medical care.
“During all my rotations in med school I basically hung out in the emerge, whether it was obstetrics or general medicine, so I was very much focused on procedures in the first five minutes of any emergency,” he says.
Inspired by rare discussions
During his fourth year, Dr. Moore did a rotation in Northern Ontario through Thunder Bay, an experience that would set up his career. Working in the North for over 15 years, he relied on what he had learned in the Faculty’s School of Epidemiology and Public Health, where a particular professor, Dr. John Last, left an enduring impression on him.
Dr. Last was a prolific author, scientist and teacher, and a leader in the development of ethical standards for epidemiology and public health. He ultimately reached the rank of emeritus professor, and to this day his reference texts are used by schools of public health and community medicine and epidemiology around the world.
“Dr. Last had a profound impact on all of our class because we started to think about populations, not just individuals—a rare discussion in medicine as we’re often focused on one patient at a time,” Dr. Moore says. “In starting to think about populations, Dr. Last set the seed in many of us to start thinking about health policy.
“My beginnings in health policy in population health was acting as a local coroner in the North—I looked at accident prevention and was involved in inquests resulting in policy recommendations. I think those lectures on population health and population benefits by Dr. Last were foundational for that approach,” he explains.
Dr. Moore’s career eventually transformed into overseeing the health of entire populations, drawing on his expertise in both front-line work as well as public health. As the medical officer of health for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Public Health when COVID-19 hit in 2020, Dr. Moore and team swiftly implemented a host of emergency measures.
“In Kingston, we’re small, flexible and well-integrated into the community, so in my role I had very strong relationships with primary and acute care partners,” he says. The team was able to rapidly set up assessment centers, had very good testing capacity locally, and had strong case and contact management capacity.
“We also integrated health policy and used the powers of the medical officer of health section very early on to protect the community,” Dr. Moore explains. “And, I think I’m most proud of our health unit’s achievement in protecting our long-term care sector, the most vulnerable in our community.”
Unique expertise for a powerful role
Dr. Moore feels that opportunity for leadership opened the door to his appointment as chief medical officer of health for Ontario this past June, and he was eager to contribute to population health at a provincial level.
“The first 20 years of my career were in emergency medicine, air ambulance and the coroner system, and the last 10 years have been in public health,” he says. “I think it’s very unique to the role to have been grounded in front-line medicine and be able to apply those principles at a population level—that’s where I’m most excited.”
Dr. Moore believes Ontarians should be proud of their efforts throughout the pandemic, crediting them for embracing prevention strategies.
“We have a world-class immunization strategy, and I think most Ontarians have been very understanding of the need to have a combination of immunization and public health measures,” he says.
In August, the University of Ottawa became the first university in Canada to require two-dose vaccination for all those coming on campus, a policy Dr. Moore supports.
“Immunization policy is especially important in the university and college sector,” he says. “If the Faculty of Medicine was able to nudge the University in that direction, I congratulate them.”
What we have learned through this pandemic, says Dr. Moore, can help us prepare for future health challenges. “I think we’re realizing that we are a federation, and hopefully this will strengthen our federation,” he says. “I’d love to hear politicians speak about a Team Canada approach, where we’re consistent across all provinces.”
To this day, Dr. Moore maintains his connections to the Faculty and the good friends he made during his studies. “I regularly keep in touch with my many long-term friends, and our class still gathers for reunions,” he says.
“Medical school is foundational to lifelong friendships.”
Condensed from an interview in August 2021.
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