Doc­tor an­swers the chal­lenges pre­sented to her

Poel­man of two for­mer stu­dents in­ducted in Pal­liser Wall of Fame


From an early age Su­san Poel­man knew ex­actly what she wanted to be when she grew up.

Ask her and she’d tell you she was go­ing to be a nurs­ing ad­min­is­tra­tor, just like her mother, Marie. Yet when Poel­man shared those ca­reer de­signs with her role model, she was en­cour­aged to aim higher and be­come a doc­tor in­stead.

“I would say, ‘I don’t know if I have what it takes.’ But she firmly be­lieved in me and be­lieved I had what it took to be a doc­tor,” says Pole­man, a Cal­gary Chris­tian School grad­u­ate and one of two in­ductees into Pal­liser Re­gional Schools’ Wall of Fame for the 2018-19 school year.

Thanks to both par­ents and ed­u­ca­tors who chal­lenged her — and per­haps one naysayer — she took to the stage at Pal­liser’s Open­ing Day staff cel­e­bra­tion as Dr. Poel­man. She was rec­og­nized for her out­stand­ing work in the area of medicine/der­ma­tol­ogy.

Tour­ing the halls of Rock­yview Gen­eral Hospi­tal with her mother as a young­ster, Poel­man found it an ex­cit­ing yet com­fort­able en­vi­ron­ment. Marie’s love of medicine was con­ta­gious and Poel­man’s Grade 10 bi­ol­ogy teacher at Cal­gary Chris­tian School helped fur­ther in­stil an in­ter­est in the hu­man body.

“He just made it come to life,” says Poel­man, adding Loren Viss­cher’s skill as a com­mu­ni­ca­tor is ev­i­dent by the fact she re­mem­bers so many analo­gies he used in the class­room. “He was just a fas­ci­nat­ing, en­er­getic, en­thu­si­as­tic, young teacher.”

Small class­rooms helped stu­dents nur­ture re­la­tion­ships with their teach­ers and Viss­cher was just one of the phe­nom­e­nal ed­u­ca­tors who dom­i­nate her mem­o­ries of Cal­gary Chris­tian School

An­other was De­siree Fran­cisco, a Cal­gary Chris­tian French teacher Poel­man chose to in­tro­duce her at the Wall of Fame cer­e­mony. The ad­vanced French tute­lage the “su­per en­thu­si­as­tic” teacher pro­vided helped Poel­man cruise through uni­ver­sity French classes. It also helped her land a very com­pet­i­tive res­i­dency po­si­tion at McGill Uni­ver­sity in Mon­treal, where a pro­fi­ciency in French was para­mount.

“It was be­cause of this woman, and God’s grace, that I was able to achieve the un­achiev­able, to get this highly sought af­ter res­i­dency po­si­tion in der­ma­tol­ogy,” she says.

Poel­man also cred­its — in a back­hand fash­ion — a ca­reer coun­sel­lor in col­lege who tried to steer her away from medicine. She still up­dates him via email ev­ery time she re­ceives a new ac­co­lade in the hope he will re­al­ize the er­ror in his ways.

“If some­one tells you that you can’t, it’s kind of en­er­giz­ing be­cause you want to prove them wrong,” says Poel­man. “There will be naysay­ers. There will be ad­ver­sity. There will be tri­als, but that shouldn’t stop you from pur­su­ing your goals.”

The pur­pose be­hind the Wall of Fame is both to cel­e­brate the suc­cesses of for­mer Pal­liser stu­dents and in­spire fu­ture stu­dents. This year’s other in­ductee was Dr. Karen Schwartzkopf-Genswein, a grad­u­ate of Coal­hurst High School who was rec­og­nized for out­stand­ing work in the field of an­i­mal science.

Dr. Poel­man has been prac­tis­ing medicine as a der­ma­tol­o­gist for nine years and works in pri­vate prac­tice in Cal­gary. She has a spe­cial in­ter­est in skin can­cer, is the direc­tor of the South­ern Al­berta Pig­mented Le­sions clinic, and lec­tures at lo­cal, na­tional and in­ter­na­tional meet­ings.

Poel­man also serves as a mem­ber of the Cana­dian Hidradeni­tis Sup­pu­ra­tiva Foun­da­tion ex­ec­u­tive board; the Women’s Der­ma­to­logic So­ci­ety In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs com­mit­tee; the Cana­dian Der­ma­tol­ogy As­so­ci­a­tion’s Sun Aware­ness Com­mit­tee; and is chair of the CDA Prac­tice Man­age­ment Work­ing Group.

Al­ways grate­ful for the ef­forts and at­ten­tion of her own teach­ers, Poel­man also en­joys teach­ing and men­tor­ing young med­i­cal trainees as a clin­i­cal as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­gary Fac­ulty of Medicine.

“I do it be­cause I love to pay it for­ward. It’s very grat­i­fy­ing to know you are mak­ing a dif­fer­ence and you are giv­ing back,” she says.

Poel­man and her hus­band Marlen have three chil­dren, Ada­lyn, Jake and Ella.

To read her bi­og­ra­phy or learn more about other Wall of Fame in­ductees, go to

Dr. Su­san Poel­man

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