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Meet the Dean
Posted Wednesday, September 28, 2011 9:46 AM
 
Brian Postl, Faculty of Medicine
 
On meeting Dr. Brian Postl, dean of the Faculty of Medicine, I immediately confess to him that I’m a bit under the weather, and then defend my impulse to over-share by adding, “Everyone gives you their list of health concerns on meeting you, right?” He smiles. “It’s not uncommon,” he answers kindly.

As doctor and dean, Postl is the kind of man who seems to be in absolutely the right place and vocation: his presence communicates trustworthiness, thoughtfulness and diligence, a serious commitment to his role.

He was installed as dean in July of last year, and says he’s happy for the opportunity to apply his administrative skills here at the university. Though he maintains his own practice, the founding president and former CEO of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) has been in administrative roles for quite some time. In addition to his decade with the WRHA, he’s also acted as director of the the J.D. Hildes Northern Medical Unit and division of community and Northern medicine and as director of the Faculty of Medicine’s community medical residency program.

He enjoys the problem-solving aspect of the role, as well as working with people. By comparison, the shift to faculty dean from the WRHA is one that involves a little less time in the public eye, and a bit more focus on education, research and training, he says.

Coming back to the university has also offered, as he puts it, a very enjoyable set of exposures. He appreciates the intellectual stimulation of the environment, and greatly enjoys working with students.

In fact, the return to the U of M has felt a bit like a homecoming for him. His history at the university goes back to 1976 when he graduated from medicine; in 1981 and 1982, respectively, he received his Royal College Fellowship in community medicine and pediatrics. Much of his own research and work has focused on populations health, and Aboriginal and Northern populations in particular.

Postl was attracted to medicine and these specialities because of how they combined his interests and instincts.

On methodical, scientific side of things, he appreciated how “the micro and the macro come together through the science, in epigenetic and molecular biology.”

Overall, he says, “The specialties [of community health and pediatrics] combined two interests of mine: on the one hand, merging biological science and chemistry with the social aspect of community medicine—investigating the determinants of health through the population health perspective; and on the other, to act as a community resource and to use one’s skills to the benefit of others.”

His instinct to help others has been a strong determinant in Postl’s life choices. When I ask him what he claims as his guiding principle, he responds instantly. “That we’re here to serve others,” he says.

This same clarity and dedication are attributes Postl values in those around him, especially colleagues—he has the highest regard for “how they serve others; their commitment to being physicians.”

His vision for the Faculty of Medicine is informed by the centrality of service. As he says, “The people of Manitoba pay to have their health needs met as a community, and so our obligation is to ensure that there are enough of them [doctors], that they are well-trained, and that they are trained for the areas where they are most needed.”

Another major task for the faculty, he suggests, entails a continuous re-imagining of how to keep young physicians in the province. Manitoba is on the upswing, says Postl, and more people want to stay in the province.

“Part of the training is to instil a sense of service in young doctors,” he says. “To educate them to understand that their respect and status within the community comes both due to their specialized skills, but also because of their service—what they give to their community.

“One has to learn to be open, to be interested, to be continually learning. It’s not a static profession.”

So what keeps Postl going?

“That sense of mission, that the work doesn’t go away because you are having a bad day. And the world we live in, most of our rough patches aren’t all that rough compared to what many people have to go through.

“In medicine, that’s really an important thing to remember: Your bad days aren’t so bad.”
 
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