Essay submitted by Dr. Brian Postl, C.M.
Dean, Max Rady College of Medicine
Dean, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences and Vice-Provost (Health Sciences), University of Manitoba
Our city and province enjoy a rich cultural diversity. We are composed of the original First Nations, a diverse group of immigrants and the Métis Nation.
Reflecting on our past, the University of Manitoba’s (U of M) Faculty of Medicine was established in 1883 to meet the medical needs of a growing province. Initially a small enterprise, it has grown dramatically over the last 138 years. But it did not always reflect the diversity of the province. Indeed, there were substantive periods where “whiteness” and “maleness” and “ethnicity” were key parameters for consideration of entry or exclusion.
Since becoming Dean in 2010 of what is now known as the Max Rady College of Medicine, I have championed a vision for Manitoba’s future health workforce that reflects the communities we serve. Firstly, it is the right thing to do; providing equal opportunity for those who have historically been excluded. Secondly, it provides a broader cultural and experiential base to health-care providers to enhance understanding, commitment and ultimately improved patient outcomes.
My vision is to level the playing field for women entering the college (approximately 50 per cent) and female faculty and staff. We established a Women in Science, Development, Outreach and Mentoring (WISDOM) program to facilitate networking, mentorship and career development. With support of The Winnipeg Foundation, we launched the Martha Donovan Leadership Development Awards two years ago recognizing women’s leadership and supporting their pursuit of leadership skills development.
Since 1979, the college has offered a route to entry for Indigenous students. The University of Manitoba has now graduated several hundred Indigenous physicians who are serving in meaningful ways, and in significant leadership roles.
Entry routes for rural students were enhanced in early 2000s resulting in a much more proportional representation. We have also expanded to seven distributed medical education sites across the province while the College of Nursing continues to offer a collaborative nursing program with University College of the North. As well, the College of Rehabilitation Sciences has partnered with Indigenous communities on projects identified by the communities.
The Max Rady College of Medicine has also made space for qualified candidates from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds including Francophone, and diverse socio-economic and socio-cultural conditions.
These changes in admissions need to be accompanied by parallel changes to organizational culture to help reinforce the efforts of anti-racism, equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI). In 2014, as a first step, the U of M established the new Rady Faculty of Health Sciences bringing together the colleges of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Rehabilitation Sciences. All five deans signed a commitment to EDI on a go-forward basis and committed funding to a director of EDI and an anti-racism lead.
In 2017, nearly 50 years of efforts in Indigenous health (J.A. Hildes Northern Medical Unit), education and research were amalgamated into Ongomiizwin – Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing, the largest unit of its kind in a Canadian university. Since COVID began, Ongomiizwin has collaborated with First Nations and federal and provincial governments, to provide rapid response teams and vaccination delivery to northern communities. Ongomizwin is working to build a comprehensive response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action that will include a course requirement in Indigenous health/history prior to application to medicine.
The passage by the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences of a disruption of all forms of racism policy last summer has been widely accepted across our campuses and recognized as the first of its kind for a university in Canada.
As we look ahead, we still have much to do to dismantle systemic inequity, to interrupt the impacts of racism, and to create learning, research, and clinical experiences that reflect who we want to be. Many of these efforts have been supported by philanthropy; it is indeed a way we can all contribute.
Dr. Brian Postl is Dean of the Max Rady College of Medicine, Dean of the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, and Vice-Provost (Health Sciences) at the University of Manitoba.
Under his leadership, the colleges of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Rehabilitation Sciences were united as the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences. A Pediatrician for more than 40 years, his previous roles at U of M included leading the J.A. Hildes Northern Medical Unit (now Ongomiizwin – Health Services). Dr. Postl was the founding President and CEO for 10 years of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and served as Chair of Research Manitoba.
He is an advocate for equitable health care for Indigenous communities and has championed equity, diversity and inclusion across the Rady Faculty. He has led changes to medical school admissions criteria to create a student body that better reflects Manitoba’s diverse population.
In recognition of his advancement of clinical and academic health care in Manitoba, Dr. Postl was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in 2020.