PULLMAN, Wash.– Denver pediatrician Richard C. Gustafson Jr., M.D., has received a Washington State University Alumni Achievement Award. He was honored Nov. 21 at an Apple Cup reception for past presidents of the WSU Alumni Association. The reception was held at the Bell Harbor International Convention Center in Seattle.


Gustafson earned a psychology degree from WSU in 1993, graduating with highest honors, and completed a medical degree at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 1998. There he received the Amos Christie Award in pediatrics. He completed his residency in pediatrics at the Denver Children’s Hospital, where he now works in urgent care medicine.

He is the son of Richard and Nancy Gustafson of Shoreline.

Between his third and fourth year of medical school (1996-97), Gustafson spent five two-month medical rotations abroad — one each in Sweden, India, Thailand, Vietnam and the People’s Republic of China — studying community, family and pediatric medicine, infectious diseases, and tropical, Tibetan and traditional Chinese and Vietnamese medicine.

“The whole time you are presented with new ideas and new concepts in what people believe (related to health care),” he said. “The focus of Western medicine is pathology – what is wrong with the patient at a cellular level. Eastern medicine is more focused on the person and what in the individual’s life is causing an imbalance or illness.”

Gustafson has been fascinated by health care in developing countries “because a little effort can reap huge rewards,” he said. For example, small interventions such as an improved latrine or water well can make drastic impacts on the lives and well-being of entire communities.

He spent 10 weeks in Costa Rica observing health care in hospitals and community settings and worked in an infectious disease laboratory studying dengue, an acute infectious disease. Gustafson also spent a month observing health care in a rural indigent community clinic in Mexico. For two months, he ran his own clinic in a large community health center in Piura, Peru’s sixth largest city. On the same trip, he attended up to 35 patients each half-day at a makeshift community health center in a small mountain village near the border of Ecuador.

He visited China in 2002-03 on an adoption trip, providing medical examinations and offering advice for orphans six months to three and a half years of age. Also, he supervised residents on international medicine electives in Guatemala (2000) and Spain (2003).

Earlier this year, he spent three months earning a Diploma of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He also spent a total of one month in China, Laos and Cambodia providing medical care.

Gustafson said his goal is to spend one to two months a year in a Third World country providing health care for children.

He was a Terrell Scholar at WSU, an Honors College graduate, a member of the Student Alumni Connection, president of Sigma Nu Fraternity and a recipient of the College of Sciences and Arts Distinguished Achievement Award.