It might seem crazy that a person would commute more than eight hours twice a week for a job, but that’s what Dr. Christian Albano did regularly for the past 5.5 years.
At the end of the work week, the respected Concordia University Wisconsin pharmacy faculty member would make the 8.5-hour commute to his home in Fargo, North Dakota, to spend the weekend with his wife, Hope, and their three children. At the end of the weekend, he’d turn around and make the trek back to Mequon for his week of teaching on Concordia’s campus.
It was in Albano’s nature to take on ambitious tasks—like routinely driving or flying across two states for his career, or pursuing six academic degrees and 50 pages’ worth of career accomplishments. More than that, it was his love of Concordia that kept the tread well-worn on his tires.
“I never saw him happier or more fulfilled than when he was at Concordia,” notes his wife.
Concordians are now mourning the loss of their ardent colleague, teacher, and friend. On Friday, Albano died unexpectedly after suffering a heart attack while at a gym in Fargo. He was 47.
“Christian was an extraordinary colleague,” says University President Rev. Patrick T. Ferry, PhD. “From the moment that I met him I recognized how well he fit Concordia’s mission, and his dedication to the university and our School of Pharmacy was truly exemplary. He will be sorely missed, but we are comforted knowing our Lord’s unfailing love for us all and Christian’s strong faith in Christ.”
When he wasn’t making regular trips to North Dakota or managing his teaching responsibilities, Albano kept busy with a bevy of research-related or entrepreneurial efforts.
Among them was the development of MedSync-Rx, a Smart app that coordinates multiple medication refills to be picked up on the same date each month.
The idea for the app originated with one of Albano’s students, Dr. Brian Trinh, who now works in Alaska as an outpatient pharmacy manager for the U.S. Army. After the alumnus graduated in 2016, Albano continued to champion Trinh’s innovation, and partnered with Dean of Concordia’s School of Nursing Sharon Chappy and Mike Litman, associate professor of computer science, to further develop the product.
The team competed in the recent Healthcare Innovation Pitch, a Shark Tank-like event where teams of health care innovators from multiple states pitched their ideas to a panel of venture capitalists. The MedSync-Rx team took home first place in their category, claiming $20,000 in seed funding.
It wasn’t uncommon for Albano to partner with students to give them the boost they needed to take their efforts to the next level. As with Trinh, Albano found potential in freshman Olivia Beaudoin. The two bonded over their shared appreciation for music and Albano helped Beaudoin in myriad ways to demonstrate the credibility of music therapy and promote its efficacy.
Twice over, he traveled to out-of-state conferences on Beaudoin’s behalf—when her class schedule would not allow—to present her research findings. He also participated in multiple startup accelerators with her, helped her hone her research processes and craft her findings, and gave her an introduction to the people with whom she needed to connect.
Beaudoin responded to the news of her beloved mentor’s passing by writing a song that utilizes a healing frequency. Listen to Beaudoin’s musical tribute here.
“He did so much for me,” Beaudoin says. “He gave me confidence and helped me believe in myself.”
Faculty, staff and students in the School of Pharmacy are still reeling over the unexpected news, says Dean Arneson, dean of the School of Pharmacy.
“Christian was greatly admired,” Arneson says. “He had an amazing ability to connect with anyone he met. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family. His passing hits hard. He will be missed.”