Dr. Paul David Henteleff was born in 1931 in Winnipeg to Lillian Axelrode and Harry Henteleff. He earned his medical degree from the University of Manitoba in 1956 while also pursuing an interest in literature, philosophy and the arts.
Inspired by Dr. George Johnson, who later became Minister of Health, Dr. Henteleff completed additional training in rural Quebec and Saskatoon before setting up a small general practice in Winnipeg.
During his 12 years as a family physician, Dr. Henteleff worked part-time with Dr. Jack MacDonnel, a pioneer in geriatrics, and served as medical director of St. Boniface Hospital’s Home Care program. He trained further in administrative medicine, earning certificates at home and in London, England.
In 1972, Dr. Henteleff took a leading role at the Manitoba Health Services Commission, where he helped design the personal care home program that today cares for approximately 10,000 people across 130 facilities. Three years later, he was appointed medical director of the palliative care unit at St. Boniface General Hospital, which was the first hospital in Canada to develop a program for patients nearing the end of their lives. From 1975 until his retirement in 1991, Dr. Henteleff presided over the palliative care system in Manitoba, helping more than 2,000 patients and their families understand their needs, wishes and fears.
His philosophy of looking at the spiritual aspects of death, rather than the biology, meant he focused on the patient instead of the disease, which was a humble approach that inspired a generation of medical students and caregivers. Apart from his clinical work, Dr. Henteleff collaborated on the first study of depression and suicidal thinking in terminal illness, and co-piloted studies that helped to create the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy in 1991.
Following his retirement at 60 years old, he became founding president of the Canadian Palliative Care Association and head of what is now Palliative Manitoba. His steadfast leadership helped to make end-of-life care a core service in this province and influenced the direction of clinical and research programs across Canada. In recognition of his many accomplishments, he has earned several awards, including the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal.
Unafraid to tackle a controversial issue, Dr. Henteleff currently advises Dying with Dignity Canada, which promotes physician-assisted death as a compassionate response to those desperate for a release from suffering.
His courageous stance and his dedication to bringing light to patients in their darkest hours have helped Canadians explore the most challenging and intimate issues of life and death. He is a physician, administrator, and scientist of immense integrity.
The University of Manitoba is proud to bestow upon Dr. Paul Henteleff a Doctor of Science, honoris causa, for creating a legacy of care in Manitoba and across our nation.