‘Science and knowledge are ever-evolving:’ Shahab receives honorary degree, speaks on health measures

Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab received an honorary doctor of science degree at the University of Regina’s convocation on Friday for his work in public health.

“I was totally floored when I heard of this. I was speechless and it’s such an honour,” he said following the ceremony.

“I never thought I would be in that league but I was totally humbled and left speechless by this all.”

Shahab, who has been practicing in the field for 35 years, has been a public health officer in Saskatchewan since 2012.

“The work I’ve been doing here and before, it’s been with communities, I share this honor with all of the people.”

Shahab has been at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic for the past two-and-a-half years. Because of that, he has faced criticism and challenges but said that is something he was trained for when entering the field.

“I listen very carefully to criticism when it’s constructive criticism. I must, and do, listen carefully, not just during the pandemic but throughout because we have to learn what resonates with the communities and what doesn’t,” he said.

“So I think I have taken the challenges in that spirit.”

While he said there have been strides made during the pandemic, it is essential that people continue learning.

“We’ve seen that just having the groundbreaking research is not enough. You have to implement that,” he said.

“For example, if you take vaccines. Just inventing the vaccine is not enough. It has to be made available and made available to everyone globally and made available in a timely way.”

“Science and knowledge are ever-evolving. I think one has to have an open mind.”

He also spoke on the role of public health in the pandemic.

“We all make our own choices, our own risk assessments. Our job in public health and in government is to enable people to make the best choice for themselves, their families, and their communities. I think that has always been the approach in public health and I think it will continue to be.”

Monkeypox has been making headlines recently and Shahab said while there have been no cases seen in the province, they are prepared to be able to test for it.

“Our public health lab is always front and center, they have the ability to now screen for pox locally and then confirmation from the lab,” he said. “So I think we have set up and positioned ourselves to continue to watch closely and be able to respond as required.”

Shahab said while he is honored to receive the degree, there is still the need to recognize we are still living through COVID-19.

“The recognition is great but it’s also recognizing that the pandemic is still persisting,” he said.

“A lot of the challenges are persisting, and we still need to address those as we move forward.”

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