UBC faculty in School of Population and Public Health castigate director Peter Berman over vacation to Hawaii

They declared that "travel for non-essential purposes and otherwise not following the guidance of our Provincial Health Officer is deeply irresponsible"

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      The backlash continues over a senior UBC official's decision to take a Hawaiian holiday in the midst of a pandemic.

      Today, 19 professors in UBC's School of Population and Public Health expressed their dissatisfaction about Peter Berman's trip in a letter to UBC president Santa Ono and the dean of the faculty of medicine, Dermot Kelleher.

      "We are deeply disappointed by the decision of our School’s Director, Professor Berman, to vacation in Hawaii," the academics wrote. "A public health leader should know better. 

      "This decision to travel harms our School’s ability to contribute leadership in calling for our communities to sustain daily sacrifices to prevent the spread of COVID-19 for the public good. We are further dismayed by Professor Berman’s response and that of UBC."

      Berman issued an apology—and the letter didn't elaborate on why this dismayed the signatories.

      Coincidentally, the recipients of the letter, Ono and Kelleher, also took plane trips outside of Canada during the pandemic. In Ono's case, it was to visit Baltimore in December after his mother had been taken to hospital in an ambulance. 

      Kelleher flew to Ireland to address "serious personal and private matters".

      Public-health officials such as Dr. Theresa Tam and Dr. Bonnie Henry have discouraged nonessential international travel.

      The academics who wrote the letter stated that as faculty in the School of Population and Public Health, they have "worked tirelessly to improve our collective understanding of the pandemic and how to mitigate its harms, provide credible guidance to our communities, and help train the next generation of public health leaders".

      "We have done so while following the public health guidance as individuals and by setting a strong example as representatives of the public health profession," they stated. "We acknowledge that we are in privileged positions with the personal and institutional resources to mitigate some of the challenges of public health measures.

      "It is therefore deeply disturbing to see those in positions of leadership take advantage of their privilege, act in ways that rupture solidarity, and fuel narratives of distrust and misinformation. It is especially disturbing to learn of Professor Berman’s travel for a vacation in Hawaii, where longstanding exploitation of the native Hawaiian population by ‘outsiders’ contributes to their being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. It is such inequities that drive so much of the health disparities that are the core of our work."

      They added: "It is important to be clear that travel for non-essential purposes and otherwise not following the guidance of our Provincial Health Officer is deeply irresponsible. We call on our leadership to set positive examples by making choices that support control of the pandemic, protection of our health services and movement toward the time where we can all regain the liberties we miss so much."

      It was signed by the following academics: 

      Michael Brauer, Professor

      Karen Bartlett, Professor

      Jane Buxton, Professor

      Susan Cox, Associate Professor

      Hugh Davies, Associate Professor

      Sarah Henderson, Associate Professor

      Patricia Janssen, Professor

      Susan Kennedy, Professor (Emeritus)

      Michael Law, Professor

      Amee Manges, Professor

      Mike Marin, Associate Professor of Teaching

      Rachel Murphy, Assistant Professor

      Mina Park, Adjunct Professor

      Joseph Puyat, Assistant Professor

      Caren Rose, Assistant Professor

      Daniel Steel, Associate Professor

      Jason Sutherland, Professor

      Kay Teschke, Professor (Emeritus)

      Kate Weinberger, Assistant Professor