Indian-origin doctor who battled SARS in Canada, dies

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New Delhi, Jun 3 (UNI) Dr Sheela Basrur, the public face of Toronto's 2003 battle with infectious disease SARS, died in Canada yesterday after a 17-month-long battle with a rare form of cancer, according to her relatives in India.

A doctor of Indian origin, she was born in 1956 in Canada to well-known cancer specialist Dr Vasanth Rao Basrur from Bangalore and eminent scientist Dr Parvathi of Kerala.

Dr Parvathi is the sister-in-law of renowned Malayalam writer and journalist the late C P Sreedharan.

Dr Vasanth Basur is a radiation oncologist at the Kitchener, Ont., hospital where Dr Sheela died. Dr Parvathi is a professor at the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph.

Divorced, Dr Sheela had one child - a daughter, Simone Koves, who is now 17.

Ms Nalini Sreedharan, sister of Parvathi Basur, told UNI over telephone from Kochi that she had talked to Dr Sheela a week ago and her voice showed that she was very weak.

A public health figure whose skilful leadership and communications expertise helped guide Canada through Toronto's SARS crisis in 2003, Dr Sheela had stepped down as Ontario's chief medical officer of health in December 2006 when she learned she was suffering from a rare variety of cancer called Hemangeopericytoma.

In March this year, at a ceremony Dr Sheela was well enough to attend, the provincial government announced the office of Ontario's newly created Agency for Health Protection and Promotion would be named in her honour, Ms Sreedharan said.

The following month, she was awarded the "Order of Ontario" for her leadership during the SARS outbreak.

Dr Sheela was awarded the highest civilian honour "the Order of Ontario" a few months ago.

She was given the most coveted "Amethyst Award" in 2007 for her "extraordinary leadership in promoting and protecting health of Ontarians and transforming public health in Ontario.

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