Alumni Spotlight: Crist finds home with University of Missouri Health Care

Brett Crist family

A dose of 2 a.m. inspiration set the course of Brett Crist’s career.

Pursuing a degree in family medicine, Crist was on rotation for orthopaedic medicine during his fourth year of medical school at the University of Kansas. Even in the early hours of the morning, Crist (g’94) felt compelled to pursue this new path.

Over the last 17 years of his career, that decision has been cemented.

Choosing Tabor College

Crist, a native of Sioux Falls, S.D., originally chose South Dakota State University to pursue athletic training. Realizing he wanted to attend a smaller campus, he had to alter his plans since Tabor College didn’t offer the degree.

Having shadowed medical professionals in his home state, Crist found that he didn’t want to just be behind the scenes—he wanted to walk alongside patients.

After graduating from Tabor College in May 1994, Crist and his wife, Mary (Isaak, g’93), moved to Kansas City to obtain residency status. He began medical school at the University of Kansas the following year.

In his fourth year of medical school, Crist took an elective of orthopaedic surgery and it only solidified his decision.

“If you look back retrospectively, you can see God’s hand in where He has taken you,” Crist said.

Crist completed his residency in orthopaedic surgery with the University of Kansas Internal Medicine Residency. He immediately pursued his fellowship, completing the program in one year at the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, Calif.

He interviewed with the University of Missouri Health Care while he completed his fellowship and the Columbia, Mo., hospital has been home since accepting the position.

Calling in Orthopaedic Trauma

Crist co-directs the Limb Preservation Center, one of the region’s only facilities that provides microsurgical reconstruction and multidisciplinary care. Injuries treated include complex extremity injuries, failed bone healing, bone deformity, limb lengthening, chronic infections and wounds.

“A new chair started here and had a great vision for what he wanted to do,” Crist said of when he arrived. “It was an opportunity for another person and me to develop the program we wanted to do for orthopedic trauma.”

Crist has built an extensive portfolio through his stay in Columbia. He personally works in fracture care, including nonunion (surgically repaired bone deformities), malunion (bones that heal incorrectly after breaks) and infections. He also works in hip preservation and replacements.

In August 2021, the University of Missouri Health Care detailed the story of a patient suffering from rickets, a rare disease that keeps the body from absorbing enough Vitamin D to keep bones and teeth strong. This patient experienced bowed legs and had surgery with Crist to repair stress fractures in her femurs (upper leg) and tibia (lower leg).

The surgery, a complex clamshell osteotomy, required Crist to cut into the bones in order to insert rods to straighten and stabilize them. Within 11 months, the patient was walking unassisted and gained three inches in height.

“I really like what I do, and I’ve never had a second thought of choosing what I do,” Crist said. “I felt God directed me on this path and I have the privilege and honor of helping people in their worst days.”

After lengthy rehabilitation, Crist celebrates the new-and-improved quality of life for his patients.

“When patients come back to clinic and they’re making gains and getting their life back, it’s super gratifying,” he said. “I always tell them, ‘You’ve made my day,’ because it’s great to see people progress when they’ve even struggled so much.”

Do you know of a Tabor College graduate who should be featured? Please send an email to or call 620-947-3121 (ext. 1225).

Previous Alumni Spotlights

Carrie (Schroeder) Froese (g’10)
Alumni Spotlight: Froese finding her pace in pediatric sleep consulting

Nick Mitchell-Bennett (g’91)
Mitchell-Bennett answering the call to serve

Rachael (Morris) Pankratz (g’17)
Love for music drives Pankratz