The local Rotary Club is paying tribute to public health officials in Windsor-Essex for the work they've done throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Rotary Club of Windsor-St. Clair presented its Community Humanitarian Award to the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) and the Paul Harris Fellowship Award to Medical Officer of Health Dr. Wajid Ahmed, during a virtual ceremony Thursday morning.
President Chuck Roy said the club felt Ahmed and the health unit went "above and beyond" in the pandemic, while also dealing with their regular responsibilities.
"We're very, very happy to honour both the [Windsor-Essex County Health Unit] and Dr. Wajid Ahmed," he said.
During the event, Ahmed and CEO Theresa Marentette, who accepted the award on behalf of the health unit, spoke about their experiences in handling the pandemic.
Marentette said she feels "immense pride" about the work the health unit has done to tackle the challenges of COVID-19.
It included working with hospitals, retirement homes, farms and many groups throughout the region, and redeploying the majority of the health unit's 200 staff to new roles related to the pandemic.
"Today we have over 400 people supporting our COVID response. We have had dental staff manning phone lines for our residents. Nurses, health promotion specialists and public health inspectors working on case management and outbreaks."
Marentette, who is retiring at the end of the month, said it was a privilege to end her career serving the community during this time.
During the event, Rotary member John Weese called Dr. Wajid Ahmed "our Dr. Fauci," comparing him to the top American infectious disease expert.
Ahmed expressed thanks to the organization for the award.
"It's truly ... very, very motivating for me to continue to do the good work that we are doing," he said.
During difficult times in the pandemic, Ahmed said he's been buoyed by all of the support he and the health unit have been shown from the public, many of whom have reached out to share letters and messages of support.
While he and Marentette are the public faces of the health unit and the pandemic response, Ahmed said they could not do it without the many staff members working hard behind the scenes.
"Our staff really, really stepped it up," he said.
As part of the awards, the Rotary chapter has made two $1,000 donations to the Rotary Foundation, which supports humanitarian projects.