The truth that has guided Christine Dalton, PA-C, thoughout her life has been her passion for helping people. Prior to her career as a physician’s assistant, she was a math and science teacher, and remembers realizing that the naturally successful students did not need much assistance in passing her class; it was the children who had a history of poor performance due to problems at home that needed the most help. Her persona of empathy, compassion, thoughtful listening, and discipline has shaped the direction of her career. “I always loved being around people…and really think it’s important to help people, whether they are an 8th grader who has an attitude because they are going through a life stressor or a patient who just wants to put the name of a diagnosis to their symptoms; to know why they feel so bad.”
Chris graduated with a B.S. in Biology. After a few years teaching math and science she returned to Bowman Gray School of Medicine in Winston-Salem NC for training as a PA and graduated in 1983. Soon afterwards she began working with Don Castel and Joel Richter, two gastroenterologists who dominated the study of esophageal motility disorders in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and became the Co-Director of their Esophageal Physiology and Disease program. She was awarded second prize by the American College of Gastroenterology for her paper on “The Changing Faces of the Nutcracker Esophagus” in 1988, and received the Teaching Award at Bowman Gray School of Medicine the same year. Chris became the President of the Piedmont Association of Physician Assistants in 1992. Currently, she is a Research Instructor in the Division of Digestive Diseases in the School of Medicine at UNC Chapel Hill. She has authored over 150 publications and has presented more than 20 lectures nationally.
Her research and patient care has contributed greatly to advancing the understanding of functional GI disorders and their treatment. She assisted Dr. Doug Drossman in the evolution of the ROME Criteria for functional gastrointestinal disorders, and was also instrumental in pharmaceutical trials that led to the FDA approval of proton pump inhibitors and histamine blockers for the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux. Chris has also assisted in the development of treatment protocol for narcotic bowel syndrome, and has carried out research leading to improved understanding of GI motility disorders and the gut-brain interaction.
Chris understands that having a disorder such as functional abdominal pain or IBS whose diagnosis is based on symptoms rather than colonoscopy of endoscopy, can be frustrating for patients and physicians alike. In an article published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, (“After hours telephone calls from patients with functional or organic diagnosis. Do physicians and patient perceptions differ?” 2002 Am. J. Gastro: 97(9)) she found that GI fellows who were responsible for after-hours telephone calls from patients believed the symptoms of patients with functional bowel disorders were less serious and that their requests for care were less reasonable when compared to organically diagnosed patients. Chris’ determination to treat these patients with the same time, validation, and acceptance of the disorder was a driving force to help bring functional GI disorders into the mainstream of research and discovery of novel treatment options.
Chris will be leaving the Center at the end of January 2013. Patients that are currently being seen by her will be transitioned to physicians with the Center. New patients can call the scheduling line (919-966-2259) to be seen for functional gastrointestinal disorders. The physicians, faculty, staff, and patients will dearly miss the charisma, passion, and patience Chris Dalton brought to the Center and to the University of North Carolina Hospitals.