Meet William Christensen, MD, MPH – Member of CHF’s Board of Directors and Scientific Review Committee

05/01/2020

William I. Christensen

Dr. William (Bill) Christensen is a valued member of the AKC Canine Health Foundation’s Board of Directors and Scientific Review Committee. Dogs and medicine have always been a part of his life and both benefit from his passion and expertise.

Bill grew up skiing the Colorado slopes and surrounded by working dogs on his family’s Wyoming ranch. “There were Border Collies to herd the sheep,” he recalls, “and German Shepherds to herd the kids!” Airedale Terriers were always his favorite and his parents bought him his first Airedale when he was 6 months old. Dr. Christensen moved east to receive his medical training at Dartmouth and Harvard Medical Schools. He completed internal medicine residencies at the University of New Mexico and the University of North Carolina. He then joined the Army and finished a fellowship in pulmonary (lung) disease while practicing pulmonary medicine and critical care. Dr. Christensen worked in pulmonology for 20 years studying Agent Orange and its effects on Vietnam veterans in the eighties. During this time, he earned his Master of Public Health from the Medical College of Wisconsin. He eventually moved into occupational medicine and now treats work-related injuries and illness, performs drug testing and fitness for duty and other examinations, and more.

During his medical residency, Dr. Christensen acquired his first dog as an adult – another Airedale Terrier. The pair competed in obedience and trained with Kiku Kennedy, who had imported some of the first Australian Terriers into the United States and continued to breed and exhibit them. Dr. Christensen followed her kennel with interest since he wished to switch to a smaller dog breed as he aged. In the late eighties, he acquired some foundation stock from the descendants of the early imports and started his own kennel. Dr. Christensen and his husband have been breeding and competing with Australian Terriers ever since.

Photo of Dr. William Christensen with one of his dogs.

As an active member, officer, and delegate of the Australian Terrier Club of America, Dr. Christensen learned of the AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF) and its work during Delegate Health Committee meetings. He accepted late CHF board member David Hopkins’ request to join CHF’s Board of Directors and was later invited to contribute through CHF’s Scientific Review Committee. Dr. Christensen’s training allows him to evaluate the study design, statistical methods used, and scientific merit of research proposals submitted to CHF. “It’s a lot of work,” he states. “It takes at least 2-3 hours to review each proposal, but I enjoy interacting with the other researchers and clinicians on the committee. The discussions are very interesting, and I have learned a lot about canine health.”

Dr. Christensen knows that CHF’s work is important as the only organization exclusively funding research intended to improve the lives of dogs. “While it is important to acknowledge the cross over between human and veterinary medicine, no one else is funding to this level for canine health research,” he states. Dr. Christensen also notes that CHF’s work is important from a public health perspective. “A lot of CHF-funded research focuses on novel infectious diseases,” says Christensen. “Many people don’t understand the implications of importing dogs into the United States with minimal health screening. The dog world needs to raise awareness and have this complex discussion on the importation of dogs from oversea rescues.” Finally, Dr. Christensen encourages his fellow dog enthusiasts to consider planned giving opportunities with CHF. “A lot of people want to support dogs but aren’t aware that they can contribute in this way,” he states.

Dr. Christensen continues to put his knowledge and passion to work for dogs throughout his local community and with his work for the AKC Canine Health Foundation. Thank you Dr. Christensen!

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