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Promising young doctor remembered for love, kindness and determination

To honor their daughter who was set to start her career at VCU Medical Center, the Archuleta family establishes a fund for the OB-GYN medical residency program.

Daughter and mother hold up a sign smiling, the sign has information about where the daughter matched for her medical residency. Christine Archuleta, M.D., and her mother Felice Archuleta, M.D., celebrate after Christine matched with VCU Health’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology residency program. (Contributed photo)

By Tim Shea

A great athlete on the soccer field and the basketball court, Christine Archuleta, M.D., moved with grace and speed, developed a deep understanding of the games and empowered her teammates with encouraging words and a competitive spirit.

“As a kid she was so fast that she played both sports against boys,” said Christine’s father, Bob Archuleta, M.D.

Despite undergoing five knee surgeries before the ninth grade, Christine kept coming back, ultimately having an accomplished athletic career at Trinity Episcopal High School in Richmond, Virginia.

Throughout her middle and high school years another interest also began to emerge – science. Maybe it was her experience of learning about the human body through injury and rehabilitation. Perhaps growing up with two doctors as parents influenced her.

Bob has practiced pediatrics in Richmond for 43 years and founded Noah’s Children, an organization that provides free palliative care to children throughout central Virginia. Christine’s mother, Felice Archuleta, M.D, completed her residency in VCU Health’s Department of Internal Medicine, going on to practice privately and in women’s health at VCU Medical Center.

“One day in the car Christine started talking about school and she remarked ‘I think there’s going to be another Dr. Archuleta in Richmond,’” Bob said.

Like her mother, Christine developed a passion for women’s health. After earning her M.D. from George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, D.C., she planned to return to her hometown where she had matched into VCU Health’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology residency program.

Sadly, before Christine could follow her dreams and her parents’ footsteps, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and died in January 2022.

Continuing Christine’s way of life

To honor Christine’s life, her parents established the Christine Archuleta Legacy Fund at the MCV Foundation with a goal to support social and engagement activities for OB-GYN residents. Additionally, the Archuletas dedicated the home in Church Hill where Christine planned to live to support the department. While the family retains ownership and maintains upkeep of what has been named Christine’s House, they are hopeful it offers a space for residents to participate in a variety of activities, like retreats and learning opportunities, and to support women with breast cancer.

Though Christine never had the chance to join the OB-GYN residency program, she left a lasting impression on its director Nicole Karjane, M.D., who describes Christine as a hardworking team player who brought exceptional energy and compassion.

“Every interaction we shared was awesome and everyone loved her,” Karjane said. “It’s a residency program director’s dream to work with someone like Christine. Plus, she was from Richmond. I felt like VCU Health and the entire community had hit the jackpot.”

Two passions that Christine discussed with Karjane were physician wellness and advocacy.

“Resident and physician burnout is a real thing, and Christine understood that a work-life balance would best serve both her and her patients,” Karjane said.

Looking ahead, Karjane is committed to helping residents find that balance and telling Christine’s story. The department has already hosted one women’s health advocacy speaker at Christine’s House.

“When there’s a program or speaker, the residents will know that we’re celebrating Christine’s life,” Karjane said. “We are absolutely dedicated to working with the Archuleta family to continue Christine’s legacy and make sure that she’s never forgotten.”

The family is especially grateful to Karjane for the kindness and empathy she extended to Christine when learning about her breast cancer diagnosis, and note that Karjane’s actions added to Bob and Felice’s motivation to support the OB-GYN residency program.

Shortly after establishing the legacy fund, tragedy struck the tight-knit Archuleta family a second time. After living with rheumatoid arthritis for many years, Felice passed away in early 2023. Now, along with Henry and Elena Archuleta – the older brother and sister-in-law whom Christine adored – Bob is focused on celebrating his daughter’s life by helping others and spreading the wisdom Christine embodied through meaningful relationships with friends, family and colleagues.

“The main purpose of the legacy fund is to keep Christine’s memory and way of life alive,” Bob said, “and to invite those who loved her to stay connected to create an impact in the community based on the many lessons her life has taught us.”

The Archuleta family: (Left to Right) Henry, Elena, Felice, Christine holding Ziti; the family’s beloved Jack Russell Terrier, and Bob. The Archuleta family: (Left to Right) Henry, Elena, Felice, Christine holding Ziti; the family’s beloved Jack Russell Terrier, and Bob. (Contributed photo)

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