B.C. gets first female provincial health officer

 Dr. Bonnie Henry has been appointed B.C.'s next provincial health officer.
Dr. Bonnie Henry has been appointed B.C.'s next provincial health officer. Liza Yuzda/CKNW

B.C. will have a new top doctor.

As of Jan. 31, 2018, Dr. Bonnie Henry has been named the next provincial health officer.

Henry has been the deputy since 2014, and is the first woman to ever be appointed to the position.

Prior to that, Henry did extensive work with the BC Centre for Disease Control.

READ MORE: Dr. Perry Kendall on flu shot concerns

In a statement, Health Minister Adrian Dix says she is poised to take on the role.

“Dr. Henry has hands-on experience in managing large-scale public-health issues both internationally and here in B.C. She has a consistent approach with providing straightforward information to the public on the risks of Zika, or air quality, to controlling issues that affect families daily, like influenza. With Dr. Henry, we have a direct and experienced adviser to steer and improve public health in our province.”

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Dr. Perry Kendall, who has been the top doctor for nearly 20 years, is retiring at the end of the month.

Both Kendall and Perry have been at the forefront of the overdose crisis.

Henry said she has big shoes to fill, and big challenges ahead – including the opioid crisis, where she is picking up where Kendall left off.

“I think there is a whole bunch of tools in our armament here, including providing people with a safer drug supply. Because right now the drug supply in the street is toxic, and it’s killing people.”

“I am also a very strong believer that we need to decriminalize people who use drugs,” she added, “and to focus on helping them wherever they are on their journey in terms of their use and their recovery.”

Henry says other priorities are clean drinking water, the flu and issues around pot legalization.

Like Kendall, Henry says she has concerns about marijuana being sold in the same place as alcohol, but it’s not her decision to make.

~With files from Ria Renouf