That was the year Dr. John Thiel started his undergraduate medical career with the College of Medicine in Saskatoon. And now, as the new Unified Head of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences and no stranger to the College of Medicine, he will be making the weekly commute back to the city from Regina.
Thiel, who has been a faculty member in Regina since 1996, will not only bring his experience in the clinical side of OBGYN to the role, but he’ll be the first Unified Head based outside of Saskatoon – and Thiel believes that that’s a great opportunity to work towards building a provincial department.
“So many things that are done so well in Saskatoon,” Thiel explained. “(But) many things that are done so well in Regina that we never hear about because we’re 250 kilometres apart.”
It’s not a matter of putting the spotlight on Regina, he stressed, but more than just having the staff in both locations doing a great job he wants to highlight all 49 faculty members – regardless of location – working towards the same ultimate goal.
And one of his big goals will focus on attracting funding.
“Funding is always a challenge, but I think you need to be creative and innovative,” Thiel continued. “If you’re not looking to do things in a new way you’re going to keep doing the same old thing, and I don’t believe that’s a good way to do things - or to model to residents and med students.
“You might hear no a few times but you just keep looking and keep trying to find a way to do it.”
Thiel, who studied medicine at the CoM before commencing his OBGYN residency in 1991, also holds a BSc in biology, and a MSc in anatomy – all granted by the University of Saskatchewan. But he admits that sometimes when it comes to garnering funding, and advancing research, it can be an uphill battle.
“A lot of time in the past there has sometimes been the opinion that ‘well you know, it’s Saskatchewan, what can you expect?’” he explained. “But we’ve initiated a fellowship in minimally invasive surgery here, (and) it’s the third oldest MIS fellowship in the country - and Regina is recognized as being one of the best places to come to be trained - and so it’s not that you can’t be the best in the country."
And Thiel finds the fact that his new role isn’t really well-defined both intriguing and exciting because it allows him the leeway to show what can be done as the new unified head.
“It’s about finding the right people, and putting the right people in the right roles, and allowing them to do their work,” he explained. “Making sure that we’re all working towards a common goal, making sure that people want to see this department become an outstanding department.
“I think that should always be our goal – to be one of the examples of how to do things: how to teach and do research, and how to take better care of our patients.”