New director of Health Services makes a long-anticipated comeback to Laie

Written by: 
Leslie Owusu

Royden Christensen, the new director of Health Services, said he is happy to be back in Laie and is devoted to taking care of the patients and staff at BYU-Hawaii. He said, “As the new director of Health Services, first and foremost my responsibility is to take care of the patient.

“No. 2 is taking really good care of the staff. Without No. 2, No. 1 can’t happen. I’m a believer that the customer is always right, but I want to make sure the staff isn’t ignored.”

The youngest of five boys, Dr. Christensen was born in Tonga while his father was serving as a mission president, but he grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Dr. Christensen said, “For the last 15 years, we have lived in Prosser, Washington, with our three kids working at a small town practice. We loved it there, but we always felt Laie calling to us. Every couple of years, I’d call Dr. Nielson and ask, ‘Hey are there any openings?’ to which he would reply, ‘No, not right now,’” said Christensen.

In preparation for Dr. Doug Nielson’s retirement, the job position was posted and Christensen’s sister-in-law, Perry Christensen’s wife, Martha, informed them about it.

Roy said, “I applied, and for my cover letter, I wrote about both my wife and I. After reviewing my application, they even asked me, ‘So are you or your wife applying?’ So I wrote a new cover letter. They asked me for an interview, and I recently found out that they liked everything in the interview, but they didn’t like my hair.” At the time, he said he had longer hair and was out of Honor Code standards.

“After the interview, I didn’t hear back for two weeks. I thought that I didn’t get it, but my wife remained faithful and knew. She would tell me, ‘You got the job. Don’t worry about it.’ She always knew. I’m like doubting Thomas.

“They overlooked the hair and hired me,” he added.

Dr. Christensen said he officially became the new director on Jan. 9, and his favorite thing so far is having good conversations with people here. “In my previous job, most people weren’t LDS, but you could still feel the Spirit [talking with them about personal things]. Often times, symptoms were related to mental health and a lot of mental health issues are related to the Savior.”

He said no matter how many scriptures you read, depression and anxiety can still endure. “I loved talking to them about it. I often asked, ‘Do you believe in God?...What are you doing about it?’ I found that a lot of people weren’t doing anything about it. They believed, but they didn’t take action.”

Coming to work here is not the first time Dr. Christensen has lived in Laie. His family moved to Hawaii after he graduated from high school for his father, James P. Christensen’s, new job as the president of the Polynesian Cultural Center in 1988, according to lds.org. Christensen then studied at BYUH as a pre-med student.

When asked how the transition to an island has been, he said, “Small town medicine is kind of what we do already. In Washington, it was as if we were on an island already.

“After I got the job, I wanted to talk with Dr. Nielson. I came here in October. He gave me a complete history of the clinic. He was here for 33 years. We’re totally missing him. He was such an incredible and giving man.”

Christensen said, “I want people to know that they are very welcome to come to the clinic. Our mission is to take great care of the students, staff, and anyone who walks through the door. That’s our pledge to give great care.”

Perry Christensen, an associate professor who teaches EIL, TESOL, and religion, is one of Christensen’s older brothers. He said, “He was the student body vice president while he was a student here. I claim that I rigged the election. I had him and his running mate attend an EIL lecture series and talk about the importance of voting. They didn’t tell the audience to vote for them. They just talked about voting in general, but I think when the students who attended went to vote, they didn’t know anyone else on the ballot so they voted for Roy. I got him elected.”

Dave Kader, a medical assistant at the Health Center, said, “Having Dr. Christensen here has been great. He is really kind and takes his time with patients. It’s nice to work with someone who has that much care and passion. You can tell he loves his job.”

Marie Yagin, a registered nurse at the Health Center, said Dr. Christensen has a good sense of humor and likes to teach. “He is always smiling and he has a lot of compassion. I feel like I’ve known him forever.”

Dr. Christensen said, “My favorite thing about BYUH is eating at the cafeteria with my brother every Tuesday and Thursday.”

While he is not working, Christensen said he loves to sleep and has an impeccable talent for snoring. He also likes to exercise and eat. His son, Nathan, is a freshman at BYUH and his wife and two younger children will be joining them here in June.

Date Published: 
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Last Edited: 
Wednesday, March 22, 2017