The U.S. Public Health Service will recognize Nicholaus J. Christian, an M.D./M.B.A. dual-degree student at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, with a 2017 Excellence in Public Health Award during the pre-graduation award ceremony on Friday, May 26, at the Victoria Theatre in Dayton.
The award recognizes medical students who are involved in public health issues in their community. In 2016, the Public Health Service presented awards at 68 medical schools throughout the nation.
Christian was inspired to become a doctor after a volunteer experience during his undergraduate years at Ohio State University. He helped set up an outreach clinic in an underserved, predominantly Hispanic trailer park. He worked with compassionate and humble medical professionals that modeled the values of protecting health.
“This was the first time I had ever seen a doctor in a community-based role,” said Christian, who is from Covington, Ohio. “The relationship and impact that the doctor had with his patients was so strong. The physician knew exactly where each patient lived and the resources available in that community.”
Before that experience, he wanted to help people through community organizing. “I realized that I could accomplish this and more through a career in medicine,” he said.
At the Boonshoft School of Medicine, Christian has been involved in numerous organizations. Faculty members have noticed Christian’s commitment to public health.
“Nick has been instrumental as a student leader both at the medical school and in the community, promoting the ideas of health and wellness for students, patients and the community,” said Sabrina Neeley, Ph.D., director of Population Health Curriculum and director of the Physician Leadership Development Program at the Boonshoft School of Medicine. “He has continued to seek opportunities that allowed him more experience working with patients with significant social determinants of health challenges.”
He contacted a Boonshoft School of Medicine alumna, Sara Doorley, M.D., ’05, after reading about her in Vital Signs, the Boonshoft School of Medicine magazine. He traveled to San Jose, California, to complete a social medicine experience working with Doorley in clinics for teens, migrant farm workers, homeless individuals, individuals in Suboxone treatment, individuals recently released from prison and rural patients. He brought his experience in San Jose back to his peers at the Boonshoft School of Medicine and shared it with them through an Overview on Homelessness. He wrote about the experience in a medical student blog post.
He has held leadership positions with the STEPS initiative, an interprofessional student-run clinic that provides health and wellness education and counseling for residents at local homeless shelters. He served as a charter member for The Ladder, a program that creates bonds and strengthens mentoring relationships among youth, college students, medical students, residents and physicians by hosting meetings to discuss health-related topics.
He also has demonstrated the desire to be an advocate for advancing the health and safety of the nation. He led the Dayton Improves Healthcare, Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) Open School Chapter at Wright State University during its initial years. He was selected to attend the 2013 IHI Open School Student Quality Leadership Academy and has completed the IHI Open School basic certification, gaining knowledge in improvement capability, patient safety, leadership and patient- and family-centered care.
In May 2016, he participated in the American College of Physicians Leadership Day on Capitol Hill, meeting with legislators and staff to discuss concerns about curbing opioid abuse. When he returned from Washington, D.C., Christian joined the Public Health – Dayton and Montgomery County Community Opioid Team and served on the Prescription Opioids Subcommittee.
Through the Physician Leadership Development Program, a dual-degree program in which medical students obtain a master’s degree in public health or business while pursuing their medical degree over five years, Christian finished his M.B.A. coursework, completed a longitudinal clerkship in internal medicine and worked as the program graduate assistant.
“Nick is highly respected by his classmates, the faculty and his patients,” Neeley said. “He will be a culturally responsive physician who seeks to improve the health and quality of life of his patients, while advocating for improvement in the health care system and community.”
Christian will begin a residency in internal medicine this summer at the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School in Austin, Texas.
“I love the holistic perspective of internal medicine. It’s a very dynamic and diverse specialty,” he said. “I was selected to be in the first cohort of the school’s care transformation program, a nontraditional, mentored learning experience. I am very excited to be a part of this innovation and creative atmosphere.”