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Meet Our Advocates: Dr. Joe Nelson

What are your pronouns?

Where are you from?
I grew up in Arlington, Texas.

What’s your specialty or area of expertise?
I am a family physician, and have always been drawn to caring for the medically underserved. I trained in urban public institutions and was inspired by the examples around me to always try to do the most helpful thing I can for my patients.

What first inspired you to become a doctor?
My father is a biomedical engineer, and his enthusiasm for the wonder of the human body in particular always affected me. I initially studied physics in college, which I found absorbing and fascinating, but ultimately realized that what I craved most in a profession was human interaction and helping people. I loved talking to people and loved all sciences, so medicine seemed to satisfy both of these.

What current policy issue especially motivates you to be an advocate?
When people make laws undermining the rights of women to control their own bodies, people who want to control them gain the upper hand. I have seen women forced into pregnancy and forced to continue it. I’ve seen the hopelessness in their eyes. I’ve seen doctors harm women by their inaction or their ignorance. The laws that have been passed over decades have worn slowly and gradually away at women’s dignity and autonomy, and the women most affected are the ones least able to talk about it. I practice full-time abortion care in a state that is overtly hostile to abortion and reproductive rights. If I won’t stand up for them, I don’t know who else will.

How do you practice self-care?
Not well enough, but I’m getting better! I have a very supportive partner and spending time with her at home, cooking and enjoying well-earned glasses of wine are staples of my self-care strategy. I also satisfy my need for novelty by taking turns picking up and setting back down old hobbies like drawing, painting, guitar, and most recently (and rather tenaciously) – rollerblading. There’s no funk I’ve encountered yet that won’t respond to a few hours blaring music and making a fool of myself on my skates.

Who is your social justice hero?
It’s hard to beat Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She has done more for women’s rights in America than any other person I can think of, and is an inspiring example of courageous and well-articulated defiance of injustice and the patriarchy. She does not shrink from a fight, and her tenacity and heart give me goosebumps. I’m an unabashed RBG fanboy.

Our Meet Our Advocates series showcases the talents and passion of one of our doctors and finds out, in their own words, what inspires them to be physician-advocates. Joe Nelson, MD is in our current Leadership Training Academy class. Dr. Nelson practices family medicine in Texas.

Read more interviews from the Meet Our Advocates series.