Since August 1, San Juan Health Services has benefited from the services of the newly arrived Dr. Michael Nielson.
Dr. Nielson, fresh from a Family Practice Residency at Rapid City Regional Hospital in South Dakota, has moved with his family to begin his practice here in San Juan County.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it so far,” he said. “My family is happy here, too.”
Nielson and his wife, Kristina, are the parents of four rambunctious boys, seven year old Mckay, Talmage who is four, three-year-old Grant and baby Spencer, seven months.
San Juan County is a place Dr. Nielson knows and loves well, having grown up in Blanding, the son of Lloyd and Sylvia Nielson.
His journey back home is one of interest and worth. It’s a story of hard work, perseverance and the inspiration of others.
Dr. Nielson had an interest in medical things since he was very young. He remembers being fascinated by an x-ray he had of his elbow at the age of 10. So he always thought he would do something in the medical field.
“I never envisioned myself as a doctor for a long time,” he says wryly. He felt this way even though the late Dr. Jim Redd of Blanding, once told him in high school, “You’d be crazy to do anything except for medicine.”
That statement stuck with him through the years. While serving an LDS mission, he enjoyed serving others and thought about what he wanted to do with his life.
“I thought to at least give it [medicine] a shot,” he remembers. “Based on what Dr. Redd said and experiences I had, I felt like I could make it.”
He met his wife soon afterward and she pushed him to stay with medicine. “She thought I’d be good at it,” he said.
But to their disappointment, he wasn’t accepted to medical school the first time he applied. “I thought,” he said, “that maybe that was enough.”
So he brought his young family back to Blanding for a year and went to work for Recapture Metals, while spending a lot of time talking with Dr. Curtis Black.
Between the encouragement of Dr. Black and his wife, Nielson decided to give the medical school application another go.
The second time was the charm as he was accepted to the Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine in Glendale, AZ. “I’ve enjoyed the heck out of it ever since,” he marvels.
And he thrived at it, finishing in the top 20 percent of his class with a 3.92 GPA, a member of the Honor Society and doing very well on his board exams.
“I really took to medical school once I finally crossed the bridge and got there,” he says now.
“I was hesitant before, dug in my feet, full of self-doubt. I knew it would be difficult and I wasn’t sure I’d be successful at even getting accepted to medical school.
“The more I got the gears turning, the more I wanted it. Once I finally got into medical school, I knew within a few weeks I was in the right place. I’ve loved it ever since.”
Next was the decision about what kind of doctor to become. He toyed with the idea of opthomolgy or cardiology, not knowing for sure what to do.
Kristina mentioned to him one day, “You know you always come home happy after your family medicine rotations.” Family medicine then became the obvious choice.
“I still come home happy,” he smiles, “even after some long days where I’m here almost all night.”
Finally, where to practice. “I always saw myself working here,” he says.
But San Juan Hospital went through some tough times during his residency and he looked hard at many other places, including Oregon and Arizona.
“One day, [San Juan Hospital administrator] Clayton Holt called me out of the blue and said, ‘What do I need to do to get you here?’”
The family talked together and decided to “put some faith in Mr. Holt and the current state of affairs” and they signed on for the San Juan Health Service District.
“We’ve been very pleased with the decision we made to come back.”
Now that he is here, Dr. Nielson is involved in his new position, learning to handle the stress (extra rest, take time for yourself, time with the kids, yardwork, driving up the mountain). He hasn’t had much time yet to pursue some other hobbies he’d like to have, including driving around the county, hiking, hunting, and wildlife photography.
“We are very satisfied with the area, the community, the schools,” he says, and are “hoping this is long term for us.”
He certainly isn’t crazy, just like Dr. Redd said all those years ago.