Theresa Tam

Theresa Tam (Chinese: 譚咏詩; born 1965) is a Canadian physician and public servant who currently serves as the 3rd chief public health officer of Canada (the head of the Public Health Agency of Canada [PHAC])—initially acting in the role following the retirement of her predecessor, Gregory Taylor, on December 16, 2016—she was formally appointed on June 26, 2017.[1][2]

Theresa Tam
Theresa Tam, Promoting Vaccine Confidence.jpg
Tam speaks at a 2019 World Health Assembly event in Geneva
3rd Chief Public Health Officer of Canada
Assumed office
June 26, 2017
Prime MinisterJustin Trudeau
MinisterJane Philpott
Ginette Petitpas Taylor
Patty Hajdu
Preceded byGregory W. Taylor
Personal details
Born1965 (age 54–55)
British Hong Kong
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese譚咏詩
Simplified Chinese谭咏诗

Early life and education

Tam was born in British Hong Kong and grew up in the United Kingdom.[3] She attended medical school at the University of Nottingham, earning a BMBS. She completed her pediatric residency at the University of Alberta, and a pediatric infectious diseases fellowship at University of British Columbia.[4][5]


Tam, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, was assistant deputy minister of the infectious disease prevention and control branch at PHAC.[6]

Tam was a co-chair of a 2006 federal report on pandemic preparedness in the wake of the SARS outbreak in Canada,[7] which envisioned a respiratory infection pandemic that was described in The Globe and Mail as foreshadowing the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic "with eerie accuracy."[8]

Tam said the opioid crisis, which cost over 2,500 lives in Canada in 2016, could be higher than 3,000 in 2017 if the current trend continues. "This far surpasses the number of motor-vehicle fatalities." She said overprescription of opioids contributed to this trend.[9]

Tam has played a leadership role[vague] in Canada's response to public health emergencies including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), pandemic influenza H1N1, Ebola,[10] and COVID-19.

Tam is on the Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee of the Health Emergencies Programme of the World Health Organization (WHO), a role she took up between April and June 2018.[vague][11]

Tam is an official advisor to the WHO's International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on 2019-nCoV.[12]

2020 coronavirus pandemic

On 7 January 2020, when it appeared that there was a health crisis emerging in Wuhan, Tam advised Canadians: “There has been no evidence to date that this illness, whatever it’s caused by, is spread easily from person to person; no health care workers caring for the patients have become ill; a positive sign.”[13]

At the end of January 2020, Tam said "no reason to be overly concerned" about COVID-19. On 23 January, Tam was a member of the WHO committee that broadcast that it was too early to declare a public health emergency of international concern. On 26 January, Tam stated "There is no clear evidence that this virus is spread easily from person to person. The risk to Canadians remains low."[14] On January 27, Canada confirmed its first case. On 29 January, she told Canadians that "It's going to be rare, but we are expecting cases."

In February, cases in Canada grew from 4 to 20. During this time, Tam authorized the release of Canadians who had been quarantined for 14 days after their repatriation from Wuhan and several cruise ships.[15]

March saw an explosion of cases in Korea, Europe, and then the US and Canada. The WHO declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic. On 23 March 2020, Tam began appearing in public service announcements urging for personal hygiene and social distancing, and against unnecessary travel. The announcements will last until at least the end of April 2020.[needs update][16]

On 23 April, Tam was appointed by Justin Trudeau to a new advisory body, the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, whose mandate he declared to be the coordination of serological surveys across the country.[17]

On 20 May, Tam shifted to a recommendation that Canadians wear masks to prevent transmission, based on evolving scientific understanding of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission.[18]


  1. ^ "Dr. Gregory Taylor retires: Country's top doctor gives final word to Canadians about their health". Global News. Retrieved 2020-06-02.
  2. ^ Jun 26, Beatrice Britneff Published on; 2017 2:05pm (2017-06-26). "Politicos on the move: Feds appoint new chief public health officer". iPolitics. Retrieved 2020-06-02.
  3. ^ McBride, Jason (23 August 2019), "The Canadian Leading The Fight Against Vaccine Skeptics", Chatelaine, archived from the original on 27 January 2020, retrieved 23 March 2020
  4. ^ "Chief Public Health Officer of Canada – Biography". Government of Canada. 20 March 2019. Archived from the original on 23 March 2020. Retrieved 23 March 2020.
  5. ^ "WHO | Dr Theresa Tam, BMBS (UK), FRCPC". WHO. Retrieved 2020-06-02.
  6. ^ Canadian Press (26 June 2017), "Top doctor: Theresa Tam appointed to head Public Health Agency of Canada", The Globe and Mail, archived from the original on 29 June 2017
  7. ^ Theresa Tam; Karen Grimsrud. "The Canadian Pandemic Influenza Plan for the Health Sector" (PDF). Longwoods Publishing Corporation. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  8. ^ Tomlinson, Kathy; Grant, Robertson (April 9, 2020). "Ottawa had a playbook for a coronavirus-like pandemic 14 years ago. What went wrong?". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  9. ^ Tumility, Ryan (28 June 2017), "Government allows unapproved drugs into Canada to combat opioid crisis", Metro News, archived from the original on 18 March 2018
  10. ^ "Dr Theresa Tam, BMBS (UK), FRCPC: Chief Public Health Officer, Public Health Agency of Canada". World Health Organization. Archived from the original on 15 August 2019. Retrieved 23 March 2020.
  11. ^ "Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee for the WHO Health Emergencies Programme". World Health Organization. Archived from the original on 17 April 2018. Tam not listed on the archive link, but is on the current.[better source needed]
  12. ^ "List of proposed members and advisers to International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee for Pneumonia due to the Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV". WHO. 23 January 2020. Retrieved 30 April 2020.
  13. ^ Favaro, Avis. "Canadian health authority warns travellers over mysterious illness sickening dozens in China". CTV News.
  14. ^ Dr. Theresa Tam [@CPHO_Canada] (January 26, 2020). ""3/3 There is no clear evidence that this virus is spread easily from person to person. The risk to Canadians remains low. Find more info on #2019nCoV #coronavirus here:"" (Tweet). Archived from the original on 29 January 2020. Retrieved 28 April 2020 – via Twitter.
  15. ^ "Statements from the Chief Public Health Officer". Public Health Agency of Canada.
  16. ^ "Feds launch ad campaign urging social distancing, hygiene during COVID-19 crisis". CTV News. 22 March 2020.
  17. ^ "Prime Minister announces new support for COVID-19 medical research and vaccine development". Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada. 23 April 2020.
  18. ^