This year, two University of Minnesota Medical School faculty have received 2021 Upper Midwest Regional Emmys presented by the National Academy of Television Arts & Science (NATAS) for their respective shows. Both of the shows were created to provide public health education on the topic of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Dr. Ray Christensen

Raymond Christensen, MD, an associate professor of Family Medicine and BioBehavioral Health, has been recognized for his participation in the “COVID-19 Vaccines: Finding Answers” special produced by WDSE in February 2021. 

Dr. Christensen has been partnering with WDSE for several years through a program called “Doctors on Call”. The program features a weekly physician panel discussion answering viewer questions. It was through his work on this program that he was asked to host the medical portion of the Emmy Aaward-winning special. 

“My personal mission has always been to provide access to healthcare to rural citizens and our visitors,” Dr. Christensen said. “This was a way of spreading the word and maybe dispelling some of the rumors regarding vaccinations and COVID-19 at that time.”

Dr. Jon Hallberg

For years, Jon Hallberg, MD, an associate professor of Family Medicine and Community Health, had been creating Hippocrates Cafe shows, centered around various healthcare topics using story and song, and presenting them across the U.nited States. However, in March of 2020, all shows were paused due to the growing pandemic. 

In the wake of the shutdowns, Dr. Hallberg and his team came up with the idea to alter the format of the show and create a television special. The program was titled, “Hippocrates Cafe: Reflections on the Pandemic”, and was produced by Twin Cities PBS TPT. 

The program featured several spoken word, musical, and artistic pieces centered around the pandemic. This year, the special won a 2021 Upper Midwest Regional Emmy. 

“I hope the show revealed the importance of the art of medicine, storytelling and having curiosity that deepens our empathy,” Dr. Hallberg said. “That side of healthcare and medicine can get lost pretty easily in day-to-day activities. This program reminds us of the importance of human connection and understanding one another.”

Dr. Hallberg is already creating three more programs along a similar format with the next one (“The Art of Medicine: Reflections on Race”) scheduled to be aired in March 2022.

“We worked to find the sweet spot of creating a show that has beauty, solace and reflection, while not shying away from important topics,” Dr. Hallberg said. 

Drs. Christensen and Hallberg said that they are both grateful and appreciative for the recognition that they have received for their respective shows. They hope to continue to build off this momentum and spread messaging that leaves a lasting impact on community health.