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article imageSheela Basrur, Chief Medical Officer During SARS Ourbreak In Toronto, Dead At 51

By KJ Mullins     Jun 2, 2008 in Health
Ontario's chief medical officer during the SARS epidemic in 2003, Sheela Basrur died on Monday at the age of 51 from a rare form of cancer. She was a general practitioner in Guelph, Ontario.
"We have ultimately, entirely and only ourselves the ability to choose where we want to shine our light. I choose to shine mine on those that are the gifts and the joys and the rose petals in my life, and when I do that, I see gifts in abundance." - Basrur, describing the awareness she'd gained through battling her cancer.
Sheela Basrur stepped down from her position of chief medical officer in December 2006 when she was diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma.
Sheela Basrur was born into a house of doctors. Her mother was a professor at the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelf and her father was a radiation oncologist at the same Kitchener, Ontario hospital that Basrur died at. She attended the University of Western Ontario and the University of Toronto where she earned her Masters in health sciences.
Basrur was divorced with a seventeen-year-old daughter, Simone Koves.
She was well enough to attend a ceremony in April where a new Ontario arms-length public health agency was named in her honour, the Sheela Basrur Centre.
"She was one of those people who can take the information and understand the implications of it and be able to convey that to people in a way that they understand," said Dr. Bonnie Henry, a friend who also served as an associate medical officer of health in Toronto during Basrur's tenure as medical officer of health for the city.
"To me, her greatest skill was being a passionate and very good communicator with people."
Basrur was instrumental along with George Smitherman in the Smoke Free Ontario Act. The Act banned smoking in enclosed work places and public spaces across Ontario.
Her composure during the SARS crisis in Toronto earned her the respect of many.
"Her unique ability to distill complex medical issues at a time of distress brought much needed reassurance to the Canadian and international communities," Federal Health Minister Tony Clement - who was the provincial health minister at the time - said in a statement.
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