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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 21, 2005

Photos: Richard Christiansen, left; Michael Finkelstein, right

UI Dental Alumni Receive Top Awards At Annual Event

The University of Iowa College of Dentistry and the UI Dental Alumni Association will present their highest honors to an alumnus and a faculty member during the college's reunion weekend festivities on Friday, Oct. 21.

Richard L. Christiansen, D.D.S., a 1959 graduate of the college, received the 2005 Alumnus of the Year Award. Michael Finkelstein, D.D.S., Endowed Centennial Professor of Teaching in the Department of Oral Pathology, Radiology and Medicine and a 1976 alumnus of the college, received the 2005 Educator of the Year Award.

"We are extremely pleased to be able to honor these two fine dental professionals," said David Johnsen, D.D.S., dean of the UI College of Dentistry. "Through their contributions, they have not only reflected well on themselves and on our college, but also have improved oral health care for future generations."

Christiansen grew up in Denison, Iowa and began his education locally, first at Iowa State University and then at the UI's dentistry program. An internship at the U.S. Public Health Service Marine Hospital in San Francisco exposed him to what would be his lifelong interest in craniofacial growth and development. He pursued this interest, eventually becoming principal investigator of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) Oral Medicine and Surgery branch and then chief of the NIDCR's new Craniofacial Anomalies Program branch. In 1981, he became director of NIDCR's Extramural Programs, coordinating much of the oral research support outside Bethesda, Md.

In 1982, Christiansen became dean of the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, retiring in 2001. Just before retirement, he and his wife, Nancy (Norman) Christiansen, a 1956 graduate of the UI's dental hygiene program, established the Richard and Nancy M. Christiansen Professorship in International Oral Health Research and Education for the UI College of Dentistry. A member of the U.S. Public Health Service's Dental Professional Advisory Committee, Christiansen has served on numerous national and university committees, and he consults on orthodontic and oral health education issues. He is active in Lutheran housing and social services organizations in Ann Arbor, Mich., and remains interested in several dental organizations. Among other honors, he has received the Commendation Medal from the U.S. Public Health Service.

2005 Educator of the Year Michael Finkelstein is also a 1976 alumnus of the UI College of Dentistry. He joined the college in 1983, and today maintains a joint appointment with the Department of Oral Pathology, Radiology and Medicine and the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. Through these appointments, Finkelstein teaches anatomy and cell biology, histology, infection control and oral pathology to predoctoral dental students.

During the past 22 years, he has been honored 22 times with the college's Instructor of the Year Award, and senior student classes recognized him eight times with the Distinguished Instructor Award. Finkelstein also received the UI Collegiate Teaching Award twice, and in 2004 received the first-ever President and Provost Award for Teaching Excellence from the UI. He is involved in numerous professional associations and is a reviewer for the Journal of the American Dental Association and the journal Special Care in Dentistry.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5123 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52245-1178

CONTACTS: Media: Susan L. Green, 319-335-9465,; Program: Penni Ryan, 319-335-7145