From a young age, Ray Christensen, MD, knew he wanted to devote his career to rural communities like the one he grew up in. Now — as both the associate dean for rural health at the University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth Campus and the associate director of the Rural Physician Associate Program — it’s fair to say he’s done just that. 

Over the years, countless physicians have had the pleasure of calling him mentor, role model and advocate. 

“For decades, the supply of rural physicians for Minnesota has been renewed by the teaching and mentoring by Dr. Christensen,” said Peter Nalin, MD, MBA, CPE, FAAFP, co-interim regional campus dean at the U of M Medical School, Duluth campus.

This past November, Dr. Christensen was awarded the 2021 Rural Health Lifetime Achievement Award for his significant contribution to improving rural health in Minnesota.

“To be recognized is a nice thing. But that’s not the reason I’ve poured my heart into this work,” Dr. Christensen said. “As someone that grew up in a rural community, I’ve learned firsthand the importance of continuing to teach and mentor new rural healthcare providers.”

Throughout the course of his career, Dr. Christensen has worked tirelessly to develop the next generation of rural healthcare providers, which, in turn, has increased the quality and access to medical care across rural Minnesota. 

“Dr. Christensen advances the central importance of medical students experiencing rural family practice first-hand,” Dr. Nalin said. “From rural learning sites, our students recognize the opportunities and appreciate the impacts of rural care upon the lives of patients and families throughout Minnesota.”