University of North Dakota Faculty/Staff Newsletter

Doctors honored with Tow Humanism in Medicine Awards

Charles E. Christianson, associate dean for clinical education and associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, was honored with the prestigious Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Faculty Award at the medical school’s commencement on May 12. Kendra Lystad, a 2013 UND medical school graduate, received the Tow award for graduating medical students.

The Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Awards are sponsored by the New Jersey-based Arnold P. Gold Foundation. The awards recognize a physician and a graduating medical student who best demonstrate the foundation’s ideals of outstanding compassion in the delivery of care, respect for patients, their families and health care colleagues, as well as demonstrated clinical excellence. The Gold Foundation sponsors the annual Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Awards at over 90 of the nation's medical schools. The awards are made possible through a generous donation from entrepreneur and teacher Leonard Tow.

“Dr. Christianson has exemplified compassion and empathy with our patients; exhibiting care, concern, psychological empathy, and respect for patients who may not be well educated and who have multiple physical and psychological issues,” said Sharon R. Ericson, chief executive officer of Valley Community Health Centers, in nominating Christianson for the award. “Patients seek out Dr. Christianson, and some of our most complicated patients are part of his panel. Dr. Christianson has provided primary care for patients with long-term pain issues, successfully using patient contracts and monitoring and alternatives to medications.”

Christianson is responsible for coordinating clinical education throughout the four years of the medical curriculum, working closely with campus deans and instructors across North Dakota to educate students on how to provide the best evidence-based care for their patients. He is a graduate of Princeton University and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health. He completed his post-medical school residency training in family medicine at the University of California San Francisco General Hospital, where he was chief resident.

He is board-certified by the American Board of Family Medicine. His research interests and publications are focused on medical education, family-centered primary care and the ethical issues that arise in patient care. He has always been highly involved in volunteer community service, particularly to improve the medical care of low-income patients. He created a clinical experience for second-year medical students to provide health screenings for people living at the Northlands Rescue Mission in Grand Forks.

“He seeks out his patients’ opinions, worries and concerns, and addresses them with great empathy and patience,” said Rosanne McBride, co-director for medical curriculum, Year 1 Clinical Sciences at the SMHS. “It is very clear that he places the highest value on his patients’ understanding of issues as well as on his understanding of his patients’ beliefs and viewpoints,” McBride said. “He shows an unusual willingness to take the risk of talking to students not only about the strengths of medicine but also about its frailties at times as well as his own struggles with difficult ethical and patient issues.”

Fargo native Kendra Lystad, 2013, was nominated by Stephen J. Tinguely, chair of the Department of Pediatrics and associate professor of pediatrics at the SMHS. “Kendra’s humanistic aptitude started at an early age,” Tinguely said. He cited Lystad’s work in high school as a counselor at the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s summer camp. In college, she volunteered at Sanford’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the Simpson Housing Women’s Shelter in Minneapolis, and as an educator on shaken baby syndrome at Regent Hospital Birth Center in St. Paul.

During medical school, she was a Special Olympics volunteer and health screening clinic organizer at Northlands Rescue Mission. She was president of the Physicians for Human Rights chapter and was elected to the North Dakota Medical Association’s Commission on Socioeconomics as a student representative. Lystad studied in Bangladesh as a researcher of health care needs of rural people. She taught children affected by HIV/AIDS in Tanzania and administered vaccines as a volunteer worker at an outreach clinic in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. She volunteered as a medical student on a mission trip to Chimbote, Peru, and returned to Chimbote as a clinic and pharmacy assistant. During her fourth year of medical school, Lystad completed international electives in Africa and Thailand. She also worked with children who have complex developmental and medical special needs at the Anne Carlsen Center in Jamestown, N.D.

Lystad is entering the Pediatrics Residency Program at the University of Utah Affiliated Hospitals in Salt Lake City. At the awards presentation, she was also named to the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society, and she earned the Dr. Marlin H. Poindexter Outstanding Pediatric Student Award.

“When she was a third-year medical student rotating through pediatrics, it was quickly apparent to me that Kendra was uniquely concerned about caring for the needs of all people, especially the poor and those living outside the United States,” Tinguely said. “Kendra Lystad lives and breathes and thinks altruism and humanism.”

-- Denis MacLeod, assistant director, Office of Alumni and Community Relations, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, 777.2733,

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