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Dr. Brent Roussin at a desk

Dr. Brent Roussin at a daily briefing. // Image: Shared Health

Calm in crisis

Dr. Brent Roussin on leading Manitoba’s pandemic response

September 11, 2020 — 

Two hundred and eleven days span the gap between June 3, 2019, and December 31, 2019. Subtract weekends and holidays, and there was not much time for Dr. Brent Roussin to acclimatize to his new job as Manitoba’s Chief Public Health Officer, which began on June 3, 211 days before the Chinese authorities announced they were treating dozens of strange medical cases that were later reported to be a novel coronavirus.

Now, as the Max Rady College of Medicine alumnus Dr. Roussin [BSc/96, MD/00, JD/09, MPH/11] has repeatedly pledged, he will be working every day until this pandemic is under control.

“It is an honour and a privilege to serve Manitobans as chief provincial public health officer during such an unparalleled time. When I took the job last June, I never expected to find myself leading Manitoba’s response to COVID-19. Every day is a new challenge that we are meeting and overcoming together,” Dr. Roussin tells UM Today.

“I appreciate the engagement and feedback from all Manitobans on issues related to COVID-19. I value the town hall conversations where I get to hear directly from the public,” he says.  “I am thankful that Manitobans have trusted me to guide the province through the pandemic.”

Dr. Roussin is also an alumnus of UM’s Robson Hall law school, and even though he never practiced law, his understanding of administrative law helps him understand the implications of policies, he has said.

“My schooling continues to guide me in my daily work, especially during the pandemic,” he says. “The University of Manitoba is a world-class institution and I benefited from tremendous educators. My classroom colleagues are now my work colleagues and that connection and familiarity is invaluable.”

Such education and practical experience have made Dr. Roussin one of the few people capable of holding his position, Dr. Mike Isaac, the former acting chief medical officer, told the Free Press.

“He’s a very compassionate person and a deep thinker.”

The Canadian Press praised Dr. Roussin’s “calm demeanour and straightforward answers,” noting how he takes time to discuss the unique challenges COVID-19 poses for Manitoba’s Indigenous and northern populations, a perspective gained from his experience working with the federal First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, and as a medical officer of health for northern Manitoba.

Guiding a population through a pandemic is not something explicitly taught at UM, nor learned in 211 days, but his education nevertheless prepared him for this role—a role his alma mater is proud to see him serve in.

“I commend Dr. Roussin on the first-class leadership he’s shown while helming Manitoba’s response to COVID-19,” said Dr. Brian Postl, dean, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences and vice-provost (Health Sciences.) “We are proud to say Dr. Roussin and Lanette Siragusa [BN/95, MN/08,] chief nursing officer for Shared Health, are UM alumni. They, along with the thousands of Rady Faculty of Health Sciences alumni across the health professions of dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy and rehabilitation sciences, have worked tirelessly on the front lines to keep the public safe during the pandemic.” 

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