While Aaron Nelson, D.O. readily admits his dreams of becoming a professional baseball player were closer to (in his words) delusions, he ultimately knew he wanted to make a meaningful difference, doing something worthwhile and helping people.
But that realization that ultimately led him to become a pain management specialist with the Hancock Regional Pain Management Center came a bit after his stint at Indiana State University. “I went to ISU on a partial scholarship to play baseball. I realized the leap to the pros was not a small jump,” he recalls. “I had friends who flailed away in the minors for years, but I just wasn’t interested in any of that. I left school and joined the Army.”
Yes, Dr. Nelson is a college dropout.
Joining the Army proved to be a good choice, lending a sense of direction that moved him to a biochemistry and zoology undergraduate degree from Eastern Illinois University and on to Midwestern University Medical School. However, in his third year of med school, in the midst of rotations, he had a scary epiphany. “I thought to myself, ‘Oh no … I hate all of these,’” he recounts with a bit of a laugh.
Sharing those concerns with his father turned out to be fortuitous. The elder Nelson was an orthopedic sales rep and took note of the interesting group of anesthesiologists he encountered along the way. “My dad was intrigued with their fascinating backgrounds … degrees in literature, engineering … and encouraged me to do a rotation.”
A rotation in anesthesiology later at Brook Army Medical Center, he was convinced this was indeed his calling. He subsequently served a Fellowship in interventional pain management at University of Texas Health Science Center. “I had always been technically proficient, but I really love connecting with a patient,” he explains. “As an anesthesiologist, you’re not really anyone’s actual physician. As a pain management specialist, I really enjoy having that doctor/patient connection.”
Joining Hancock Regional Health’s Pain Management Center in early March, Nelson is very clear about the practice focus. “The vision of the practice is offering ‘balanced pain management’ through utilizing multiple tools,” he says. “The goal isn’t just the management of pain or decreasing/reducing suffering. Our ultimate goal is restoring quality of life and function.”
Nelson accomplishes that with both medical procedures and medicine, but perhaps most importantly discovering additional modalities built on a true relationship with the patient. “Many patients have been dealing with chronic pain for years if not decades,” he says. “I try to share with them that it is a marathon not a sprint. I don’t have a magic wand. It’s a plan with multiple steps, not just going from doctor visit to doctor visit.”
Is there anything better than being a doctor? “The only thing I like better than being a doctor has been being a dad,” he says. And when not spending time with his 5- and 7-year-olds, he enjoys hiking, biking, working out and even trying his hand at woodworking. “I’m a complete amateur woodworker, but it’s something I really enjoy,” he says.