Matthew Nelson, DO, MPH, ’15, was immersed in healthcare long before he stepped foot into medical school. Dr. Nelson’s late brother experienced severe physical and mental impairments, and thus required a tremendous amount of care. At a young age, Dr. Nelson learned to recognize signs of a seizure, program feeding pumps, and insert gastric tubes.
“Most of my jobs as a young adult revolved around what I knew already, taking care of people as a certified nursing assistant or working in labs, insomuch that I found myself infusing health and medicine into most of my life and studies,” Dr. Nelson says.
Despite being involved in healthcare his entire life, his career path to medicine was not a natural progression. As a medical anthropologist on the Navajo Nation, he observed health and wellness through a non-medical lens. He developed a deep appreciation for community-based health initiatives and the ability to promote the healing process from within. He became increasingly interested in the association between poverty and barriers to wellness.
Dr. Nelson became motivated to return to the Navajo Nation as a physician. With the strong support of his wife, Kasandra, he decided to apply to medical school. Because of his interest in community and public health, he was drawn to ATSU-SOMA. He had several memorable moments during medical school but none quite as memorable as his admission process.
“I received my letter in the mail informing me that I would not be granted an interview,” recalls Dr. Nelson. “This came as quite a shock and was followed by several emotions, most notably disappointment.”
Dr. Nelson made the difficult decision to call the admissions staff and ask what improvements they could recommend for his application the following year. During that phone call, he discovered a vital component of his application was never received. Once his application was reviewed in its entirety, Dr. Nelson was extended an interview and accepted to ATSU-SOMA.
“I kept that rejection letter and placed it in the front of my notebook to remind me how fortunate I was to be there, and how even just a little extra ambition in the right place can change everything,” Dr. Nelson says.
Dr. Nelson is currently completing a fellowship in surgical obstetrics in Denver, Colorado. Although his practice is primarily obstetric patients, he treats newborns to geriatrics and hospice. This summer, he will transition to northern Arizona where he will be working near the Navajo reservation at a community health center.
Whether he is delivering babies in a rural emergency room or conducting home visits to the elderly, these experiences have galvanized Dr. Nelson’s passion for underserved medicine. His unwavering commitment to providing exceptional and unconditional care to his patients and his own family are second to none.