Kelsey Receives Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award

Christopher Kelsey Award
“I firmly believe that each of us has a moral duty to help others in their time of need. This almost always requires some degree of sacrifice — time, resources, energy. Like so many others at Duke, I simply try to do my best both at work and in the community. I feel it is a great privilege to be a cancer doctor entrusted with the care of patients. I try to provide a level of care for them that I would want provided for me if our roles were reversed.” — Christopher Kelsey, MD


Christopher Kelsey, MD, associate professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology and Duke Cancer Institute member, was awarded the 2020 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award by Duke University Provost Sally Kornbluth, PhD, at an official ceremony held via Zoom on April 23.

The award, given each year to one graduating senior and one member of the faculty, staff or graduate student body, recognizes outstanding commitment to service and honors the recipient’s qualities of selflessness, generosity of service, nobility of character, integrity and spirituality. Senior Grace Smith was the other awardee.

“Duke University is proud to name Christopher Kelsey as a recipient of the 2020 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for his many contributions to his Duke, Durham, regional and church communities, as well as his unwavering service to others,” said Kornbluth, presenting Kelsey his award.

Kelsey received his bachelor of science degree from Brigham Young University and received his medical degree from the University of Colorado School of Medicine. He served as an intern at HealthOne Alliance/PSL in Denver, Colorado, and later as a resident at Duke University Medical Center before joining the Department of Radiation Oncology as a faculty member in 2007. Since that time, Kelsey has cared for patients as a radiation oncologist, mentored residents and faculty, served on academic committees and panels and completed innovative research.

He was nominated by Duke colleagues and members of the community. Each of the six letters of recommendation, whether describing clinical care or service to the community, referenced Kelsey’s intentional commitment to kindness, his many acts of selflessness and his deep compassion.

“From my perspective, he is an exemplar of honesty and integrity, both in his clinical responsibilities and research," wrote Christopher Willett, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology, in his nomination letter. "His spirituality, integrity, selflessness and commitment to others is exemplified in the level of care he provides to his patients, his interactions with coworkers, the love he shows for his family and his dedication to serve in important ecclesiastical responsibilities.”

Kenneth S. Rogerson, PhD, director of Graduate Studies in the Sanford School of Public Policy's Master of Public Policy Program, wrote, in his nomination letter, that Kelsey “does not compartmentalize his beliefs and his public/professional life."

"He always lives as if his values are part of every decision and action," Rogerson explained. "This is not just admirable in a Duke doctor; it is something that can change – and save – people’s lives. To be clear, he works with cancer patients. There is not always a happy ending. But this is why he is worthy of this award. His life and values help people when they are able to stay a bit longer in this world and also when it is time to leave.”

Gustavo Montana, MD, professor emeritus of Radiation Oncology, wrote, in an email to Kelsey, "No one more deserving than you of this award. You are an incomparable educator, physician and humanitarian. Your qualities became evident the day you arrived as a resident to our department and they continue to flourish."

Leslie Parkins, EdD, assistant vice president and director for Civic Engagement, Duke Office of Civic Engagement, thanked Kelsey for his service to others.

“It's people like you who offer light during such dark times," she said. "This award celebrates your selflessness, integrity, character and spirituality that keep us all hopeful.”

“I honestly feel a great sense of humility and, honestly, inadequacy, in being recognized for this award,” said Kelsey, addressing Kornbluth, Parkins, and others who attended the virtual ceremony.

Zoom of Christopher Kelsey Award
TOP (L to R): Jennifer A. Goins, Senior Program Coordinator, Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement. Domoniqúe Redmond, Assistant Director for Programs, Duke Office of Civic Engagement. Leslie Parkins, EdD, Assistant Vice President and Director for Civic Engagement, Duke Office of Civic Engagement. BOTTOM (L to R): Christopher Kelsey, MD, Associate Professor, Department of Radiation Oncology, Duke Cancer Institute. Grace Smith (Student recipient). Sally Kornbluth, PhD, Provost, Duke University.