Fixing people, not houses: KU grad leaves construction behind to become a surgeon

Rising Up at KUEC: In this Q&A series, outstanding 2021 KU graduates share how the KU Edwards Campus has helped them start, advance or change their career. Meet Brendan Postle.

Brendan Postle (right) sits with girlfriend at restaurant

When Brendan Postle’s girlfriend, Maddy, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2016, he channeled the helplessness he felt into motivation to pursue a career in medicine.

“She is the strongest person I have ever met, and her fight constantly inspires me,” said Postle.

As he began school at KUEC, Postle continued to work as a general contractor during the day and attended class in the evenings. He now works as an inpatient phlebotomist at Advent Health Shawnee Mission and plans to apply for medical school this summer.

Though the 31-year-old KU graduate admits to not being the most committed student in the past, his hard work and drive to become a surgeon led him to maintain a 4.0 GPA throughout his time at KU.

“Given my past academics, the counselors I spoke with at other institutions all but laughed, but it was a different story when I first met with Sandra Leppin at the KU Edwards Campus,” said Postle. “She viewed my past as an incredible story of overcoming the odds.”

Feeling like he was supported by KUEC staff and professors helped reassure Postle that his goals were attainable. Three years later, he is set to graduate in May with a bachelor’s in applied biological sciences (formerly named the bachelor's in molecular biosciences). Read on to learn more about Postle’s life-changing decision to earn his college degree.

Q: What is a typical day in your life like?

A: The start of the day for me and my girlfriend is basically determined by when our herd of three cats lets us know they are up and hungry. We normally make breakfast at home, but an occasional trip to the doughnut shop is not uncommon.

My afternoons are either spent at home studying or at the hospital where I work as an inpatient phlebotomist drawing blood. Before COVID hit, I could often be found shadowing local surgeons in their operating rooms.

Most evenings we have dinner with Maddy’s family at our house or theirs before I have to leave for class. After returning home around 10:30 p.m., we unwind by watching “The Office” and talking about our days.

 Q: What makes you the happiest?

A: Although I am 10 years late to the party, I am finally about to achieve my goal of obtaining my bachelor’s degree and my dream of pursuing medical school. However, my ultimate happiness comes from being surrounded by an incredible group of family and friends that have helped and encouraged me in so many ways to get where I am today.

Q: What motivates you?

A: My girlfriend was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2016 and underwent a thyroidectomy, and since then she has had two reoccurrences that have required two radical neck dissections to remove cancerous lymph nodes. While the entirety of her life has been changed forever, she is the strongest person I have ever met, and her fight constantly inspires me. Although I felt helpless in 2016, I realized it did not have to be that way, and it was this incident that rekindled my desire to become a physician and set me on my current path.

Q: Why did you choose KUEC?

A: I had my eye on the molecular biosciences program at the KU Edwards Campus for years, but it was actually KU Edwards Campus that chose me. Given my past academics, the counselors I spoke with at other institutions all but laughed, but it was a different story when I first met with Sandra Leppin at KU Edwards. She viewed my past as an incredible story of overcoming the odds, and she helped set up the entirety of my three years here. Although the convenient location was a big plus, it was this meeting with Ms. Leppin that told me the Edwards Campus was the place I needed to be.

Q: How did KUEC meet your personal and/or academic needs?

A: When I first started at the KU Edwards Campus, I was running my own business as a general contractor and working full time. Being able to take classes in the evenings allowed me to put in the work needed on my job sites and not worry about missing or showing up late to class. And with the laboratories being open and accessible seven days a week, I have always been able to meet with my lab partners at the times that were convenient for all our schedules.

Q: How has your KU degree prepared you for the future?

A: While similar degree programs at larger institutions touch on the same topics, the smaller class sizes here allow for more one-on-one interaction with professors and other students. This creates an environment that lets you get to know your professors and classmates on a more personal level. While my future in medicine will not utilize all the laboratory techniques that I have learned and become proficient in, I will always have a deep appreciation for the amount of time and effort that lab technicians put into tests I will order someday.

Q: What was the most difficult part of earning your college degree and how did you overcome it?

A: My past educational performances had instilled this idea in my head that I would never be able to get a degree, and even if I did, I would never use it. While I did have to pass many licensing exams, I was very successful in construction without a college degree. But my dream has always been to become a surgeon and use my knowledge and hands to fix people, not houses. So, with the encouragement of Maddy and others, I made the decision to go back to school to pursue an education in medicine. With the help of a group of highly supportive people, I overcame this self-doubt and persevered to succeed in earning my degree.

Q: What is your proudest accomplishment?

A: In my younger days, I was completely blind to the importance of education due to my severe lack of maturity. When I went back to school in 2018, I was faced with the reality that I would need to get straight A’s to be a competitive candidate for medical school – a grade I received maybe once or twice in the past. Thanks to incredible professors, fellow students, an incredible support group and my unstoppable drive to become a physician, I have been able to achieve and maintain a 4.0 GPA throughout my three years at the KU Edwards Campus.

Q: What is your favorite memory of your time at KUEC?

A: This is probably the hardest question to answer. I mean, how do you pick one favorite memory out of the past three years? I have been very fortunate to have great lab partners who have become greater friends. There have been countless hilarious moments and wonderful conversations with Dr. Brendan Mattingly in his lecture halls, lab sessions and office hours. While I have so many fond memories, except for a minor lab mishap or two, I cannot recall any bad ones. I also have enjoyed mentoring a fellow classmate this last semester, which allowed me to give back a little of the education I received at the KU Edwards Campus.

Q: What are your long-term career goals and how do you plan to achieve them?

A: This coming summer after graduation, I will be applying to medical school for the incoming class of 2022. Then, after medical school, I want to enter a five-year surgical residency in general or orthopedic surgery. Depending on the surgical route residency takes me down, my specialty interests are cardiothoracic, orthopedic trauma and reconstructive plastic surgery. While I will be exposed to many different specialties in the years ahead and have no idea where my career will ultimately lead, I am 100% sure that somewhere in the surgical arts is where I will end up.

Q: What advice would you give others who are thinking of earning a degree, whether a first-time bachelor’s, a second bachelor’s or a master’s?

A: Regardless of your age or past educational history, continuing your education is an invaluable experience. Not only for the subject matter one studies, or the interactions with your professors and classmates that share different perspectives on the same or similar topics of interest, but to reach goals of knowledge and understanding for your own self. And if earning a degree is a means to an end, you need to be committed and remain diligent to reaching those objectives.

Learn more about the Bachelor of Science in Applied Biological Sciences at the KU Edwards Campus.

Learn more about the Applied Biological Sciences program

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