Director of UBC's school of public health resigns after vacationing abroad

UBC director out after trip

The director of the University of British Columbia's School of Population and Public Health (SPPH) is stepping down after facing criticism for eschewing COVID-19 recommendations and travelling abroad over the holiday break.

In a statement issued Friday, Jan. 15, Dr. Peter Berman said he has submitted his resignation, based on his "assessment that the conditions of distress and division currently prevailing at SPPH make it impossible for me to continue to provide effective leadership to grow and develop our school, our community and our profession in my role as SPPH Director."

Earlier this month, Berman apologized after it was discovered that he travelled to Hawaii on vacation over the holidays, despite ongoing COVID-19 restrictions strongly discouraging Canadians from embarking on any non-essential international travel.

"I recognize now that I should not have travelled, and that many of you have made sacrifices over these past several weeks that I too should have made," he stated in a letter posted to the school's website at the time.

After news of the director's vacation came to light, 19 faculty members from the UBC department signed a letter expressing their disappointment over Berman's decisions to travel during the pandemic.

"A public health leader should know better," the letter read.

"This decision to travel harms our School's ability to contribute leadership in calling for our communities to sustain daily sacrificed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 for the public good." The professors continued on to express their further dismay at not only Berman's initial response, but that of UBC.

"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," they wrote.

In his Jan. 15 statement, Berman reiterated that he "deeply regret[s] any actions of mine that may have caused this situation."

He continued, "I am grateful to the many of you who have shared messages of support to me directly or to others in our community and Faculty. I also respect the many different views expressed by those in our wider community. I have read and heard much about the suffering our community has experienced due to the terrible pandemic of COVID-19 and the concerns of many that we stay the course to defeat this dreadful disease."

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