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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Colleagues remember professor of nursing and VUSN director of program evaluation Tom Christenbery

Christenbery passed away unexpectedly in his sleep on Tuesday, Feb. 16, at the age of 66.
Thomas Christenbery
Vanderbilt University
Dr. Thomas L. Christenbery, who joined Vanderbilt’s faculty in 2000, was a champion of compassion in nursing and pioneer of Evidence-Based Practice. (John Russell/Vanderbilt University)

Professor of nursing and director of program evaluation at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing (VUSN) Thomas L. Christenbery died in his sleep on Tuesday, Feb. 16, at the age of 66.

Christenbery served as a teacher in the master of science in nursing (MSN) program as well as in the DNP and PhD in nursing science programs at VUSN. Known for his compassionate approach to the field of nursing, he was beloved by his students and colleagues alike.

“If you were fortunate enough to encounter Tom Christenbery, it is unlikely you would forget the encounter,” Dr. Tamika Hudson, assistant dean for student affairs at VUSN, said. “His intellect, scholarly pursuits and unrelenting commitment to diversity, inclusivity and equity sustained his position in those realms and solidified his status as a trailblazer.”

Since 2004, Christenbery has focused his efforts on teaching and research based on Evidence-Based Practice (EBP), which is defined as “an integration of research evidence, clinical expertise and a patient’s preferences” as an approach to providing individualized patient care.

Christenbery is the author of several papers as well as a textbook on EBP titled Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing: Foundations, Skills, and Roles. His work has been published in journals such as Nurse Educator and Journal of Nursing Administration. In 2020, his book for doctor of nursing practice (DNP) students and faculty, Fast Facts for Writing the DNP Project: Effective Structure Content and Presentation, was published.

Professor of Nursing and Associate Dean for Non-tenure Track Faculty Affairs and Advancement Dr. Betsy Kennedy was one of Christenbery’s closest friends and a longtime colleague.

“Tom was an excellent educator and cherished colleague with genuine warmth, compassion and respect for all,” Kennedy said. “A role model and generous mentor, above all he wanted those around him to succeed, and he did everything he could in support. I will miss him as a teaching partner and friend, and I feel fortunate to have worked with him so closely for the last several years.”

Christenbery grew up in Kentucky and earned his bachelor of science in nursing from Murray State University located in Murray, Kentucky. He then received his master of science in nursing (nursing administration) from VUSN in 1988.

Christenbery began his career in nursing at Parkview Hospital in Nashville. He later came to Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) to work in pediatrics and as a nurse manager. He then taught at Tennessee State University School of Nursing starting in 1989 as an assistant professor for nine years. Dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing Linda D. Norman brought Christenbery to Vanderbilt in 2000, where he earned his PhD in nursing science in 2004.

At Vanderbilt, Christenbery started as a lecturer in Vanderbilt’s PreSpecialty (Prelicensure) and MSN programs. He was promoted to assistant professor in 2004, earning full professorship in 2017.

Christenbery was also involved in supporting LGBTQ+ rights and inclusivity. He was a founder and served as a faculty advisor for both VUSNPride, an LGBTQ+ student affinity group, as well as the VUSN chapter of the American Association of Men in Nursing. On the day prior to his death, Christenbery moderated a school-wide discussion for VUSNPride.

Christenbery received many accolades throughout his career, earning the Ingeborg Mauksch Award for mentorship of new faculty, the Excellence in Teaching Award for Educational Innovation, the VUSN Dean’s Award for Recognition of Faculty Achievement in Media as well as the Sarah K. Archer Award for outstanding contributions in teaching. He also won the Faculty of the Year Award at Tennessee State University School of Nursing twice.

Christenbery was set to retire from VUSN at the end of the academic year, recently announcing his retirement.

“I feel as if I have been at a long, delicious, and satisfying meal and now it is time to push my chair back from the table,” Christenbery wrote to friends and colleagues. “Nursing has been a nourishing career and a wise choice for me.”

He is survived by his husband, David Frese, as well as several generations of nieces and nephews.

“Dr. Christenbery was the consummate and seasoned educator: one who with time became more thoughtful and reflective,” Dr. Mariann Piano, senior associate dean for research and postdoctoral fellowship director, said. “I arrived at VUSN about four years ago and I quickly came to understand how Tom was a VUSN ‘pillar’—someone who through their love of education, nursing and dedication to the school helped elevate VUSN.”

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About the Contributor
Thomas Hum
Thomas Hum, Former Managing Editor
Thomas Hum ('23) is from Fort Lee, New Jersey, majoring in economics with a minor in business. He previoulsy served as managing editor, news copy editor as well as a staff writer for the News section. In his free time, he enjoys riding his motorcycle, playing guitar, watching movies and listening to music.    
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