Welcome to this edition of the FSP member spotlight. Every month we will highlight a different FSP member who is doing exciting things in the field of pathology. FSP aims to recognize all, highlighting our members’ diverse experiences and perspectives. This month we are pleased to feature Stephen Nelson, MD. With over 30 years of experience, Dr. Nelson is Chairman of the Florida Medical Examiner's Commission and a Mentor in the FSP Mentorship Program.
Stephen Nelson, MD
Chief Medical Examiner, Central Florida
Highland City, FL
What is your current role?
I'm the Chief Medical Examiner for Polk, Hardee, and Highlands counties in Central Florida, a gubernatorial appointment. In addition, I'm Chairman of Florida's Medical Examiners Commission (MEC), the regulatory and disciplinary board for how medical-legal death investigation is conducted throughout Florida. The MEC is administratively housed within FDLE and is also a gubernatorial appointment.
What is the best part of your occupation?
Forensic pathology's mantra could easily be "anyone, anything, anytime." We don't know what kind of death is coming through our doors and we can't pick and choose what deaths we take for medical examiner jurisdiction. We're mandated by Florida Statutes and Florida Administrative Code to take certain deaths and determine the cause and manner of death. Those "unknowns" keep you sharp on top of your game. But, at the same time, as Dirty Harry says: "A good man's got to know his limitations." So we also rely on outside consultants when their special expertise is needed.
How did you become interested in pathology?
I was always interested in lab work. I loved lab experiments going way back to high school. When I got to college I had a upper level college course in histology and fell in love with the microscope. So pathology was first and foremost in my mind throughout medical school.
How did you become involved with the FSP?
I'm late to the FSP party. I attended an FSP meeting a few years ago that was very concentrated on neuropathology. I'm Board-certified in anatomic pathology, forensic pathology, and neuropathology. That FSP conference was outstanding! Then the CAP meeting was in Orlando last year (yes, I'm a CAP Fellow), and I met lots of new friends in the CAP meeting, including our in-coming FSP President Dr. Jim Zhai. As a Mayo Clinic patron, we hit it off immediately.
Explain how you benefit from being a member of FSP.
The FSP semi-annual CME meetings are top notch. The strength of their programs is evident everywhere. Outstanding faculty, program, vendors, refreshment breaks, everything. Outstanding. I'm only disappointed I didn't start attending sooner.
What would you like to see occur in the field of pathology (i.e., scientific advances, greater awareness of the field, etc.) during your career?
I'd like to see greater awareness from politicians and policy makers of pathology. I don't believe they have any understanding of the importance of the clinical laboratory and all the personnel that supports laboratory medicine and pathology.
What are your hobbies outside of the office?
I'm an ITA-certified tennis official. The Intercollegiate Tennis Association is the governing body of college tennis. I referee college tennis matches and serve as Chair Umpire. I also referee junior amateur matches with the United States Tennis Association. I'm a photographer who had a darkroom in his home while growing up. Now everything is digital (and easier).
What is something surprising that most people do not know about you?
In my job I'm always trying to think far into the future. Unfortunately, it often involves disaster planning. COVID19 has been a new light on public health and stockpiles that's been insufficiently funded in years past.
Is there anything I did not ask that you would like me to mention in the article?
Stay home. Help flatten the curve.
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