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Health sciences community mourns passing of Dr. Donald Low


Toronto, ON Canada’s health sciences community is mourning the death yesterday of Dr. Donald Low, a well-known and highly respected microbiologist. Dr. Low was microbiologist-in-chief at Mount Sinai Hospital from 1985 until his recent retirement, as well as medical director of the Public Health Ontario Laboratories from 2005 to 2012.

He was an international authority on public health, emerging infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance. Under his direction, the Mount Sinai/UHN shared Department of Microbiology was created, and services expanded to ten healthcare institutions. He played a vital role in Ontario’s management of the 2003 SARS outbreak, and in the revitalization of the Ontario Public Health Laboratory. He was also the head of the Division of Microbiology in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology at the University of Toronto.

“Dr. Don Low was a deeply respected leader at Mount Sinai Hospital…and his work here will leave a lasting legacy,” said Joseph Mapa, president and CEO, Mount Sinai Hospital. “His many friends and colleagues here at Mount Sinai are profoundly saddened by this loss, and will remember him not only for his many outstanding contributions, including the significant role that he played here at Mount Sinai and all of Toronto during the 2003 SARS crisis, but for his kindness, good humour and commitment to patient care.”

Vivek Goel, president and chief executive officer of Public Health Ontario (PHO), also paid tribute to Dr. Low, saying: “In his role with the public health labs, starting prior to the divestment from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and continuing after the transfer, he played an instrumental role in their renewal. With his leadership new staff were recruited, new testing technologies and an information system were implemented, and a bold plan for the new central public health laboratory at MaRS was developed and approved by the provincial government. Don also played a key leadership role in the creation and development of Public Health Ontario.

“For me and for all of PHO, we are deeply grateful for all that Don did to further PHO’s success. But more than his professional achievements, it was his commitment, humour, passion and talent that touched us. We recall his ready smile, his collegiality, his eye for talent and ability to inspire, his generosity in cultivating ideas, his kindness and his intelligence, and his commitment and pride in his family.”

To mark his retirement from Mount Sinai earlier this summer, the Dr. Donald Low Bursary for the Department of Microbiology was created with Mount Sinai’s Foundation to support fellows, residents, technologists and students to spend time in a microbiology laboratory for study or research. To contribute to the bursary in Dr. Low’s memory, click here.

As special fellowship – the Don Low Communications Fellowship – was also recently established at the Sheela Basrur Centre. The fellowship honours Dr Low’s legacy as a true spokesperson for public health and his much-admired ability to explain complex infectious diseases, research and treatments in ways that all could understand.