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British Columbia Mark Tyndall, a major voice in opioid crisis, to leave post as head of B.C. Centre for Disease Control

Mark Tyndall, the outspoken executive director of the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, who has been a leader in the fight against the province’s overdose crisis and was quick to criticize governments for what he deemed to be inadequate responses, is leaving the position.

In an internal memo sent on Tuesday afternoon, Maureen O’Donnell, executive vice president of clinical policy, planning and partnerships at the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA), which runs the BCCDC, said Dr. Tyndall “is moving his primary focus to his public health research related to the overdose crisis” and stepping away from both of his roles at the BCCDC and as B.C.’s deputy provincial health officer.

David Patrick, a professor and past director of the University of B.C.’s School of Population and Public Health, who has been with the BCCDC since 1991, will serve as interim executive lead, the memo said.

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In an interview late on Tuesday, Dr. Tyndall said the reorganization was not his idea, and that it was “disappointing in some ways.” He will continue his work as a professor at the University of B.C. School of Population and Public Health.

“PHSA is making some changes, and I was part of that change,” he said. “I’m really sorry to leave – there are a lot of great people there and a lot of good things that continue to happen – but I’ll be there to support it from my seat at UBC as much as I can.”

The PHSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

Dr. Tyndall joined the BCCDC in 2014 as executive medical director. At the same time, he was appointed deputy provincial health officer and director of the UBC-BCCDC Research Institute. His research focus was on public health and disadvantaged populations and he was a vocal advocate for unorthodox methods of approaching overdose prevention.

His most recent project, currently in the works, involves distributing the opioid hydromorphone for drug users to consume as they please and wherever they please – a radical effort to address a surge in overdose deaths since the deadly drug fentanyl supplanted heroin in the illicit market.

He said he will continue to move forward with the project.

“When they told me this was coming down, I made it quite clear I’m really committed to the overdose thing, and the hydromorphone project, and so they have allowed me space to continue to work on that,” Dr. Tyndall said. “So it’s bittersweet, but I think I can really try and focus on moving this project forward.”

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Dr. O’Donnell called the project a “complex initiative, and one Dr. Tyndall is incredibly committed to.”

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