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Get to Know Steve Nelson, M.D., C.M., LSU Health New Orleans Interim Chancellor and School of Medicine Dean

School of Medicine Dean Dr. Steve Nelson was appointed Interim Chancellor of LSU Health New Orleans on October 15, 2021. You can learn all about him professionally here. Read on for more about what’s not in his official bio.

October 20, 2021

Dr. Steve Nelson

When Steve Nelson started college at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, he intended to become an English teacher. Little did he know back then that he would wind up leading not only a medical school but an entire academic health sciences center. As often happens during undergrad, though, exposure to other disciplines can open up new worlds. For this young man, it wasn’t long before the biology courses he was taking sparked his interest in science, eventually opening up the world of medicine. And a gifted pulmonologist and critical care physician was born.

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Steve Nelson has always stood out. From graduating as a Phi Beta Kappa from SUNY at Stony Brook to earning a distinctive medical degree – M.D.,C.M. (Medicinæ Doctorem et Chirurgiæ Magistrum) from McGill University as a University Scholar. Dr. Nelson headed to one of the country’s most prestigious institutions -- Johns Hopkins Hospital and University for residency. He trained in the demanding ICU under his mentor, Dr. Warren Summer. As if that wasn’t intense enough, while he was at Hopkins, Dr. Nelson also completed a Clinical and Research Fellowship in Pulmonary Medicine as well as a Fellowship in Environmental Health Sciences at the Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health. He then followed Dr. Summer, now Emeritus Professor and former Chief of Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine, to LSU Health Sciences Center to help him build the Section in 1984.
Dr. Steve Nelson Hotel Dieu
Dr. Steve Nelson with students
Fortunately for the people of Louisiana, though Steve Nelson’s career path changed, his love of teaching did not. Over the past 37 years, he has imparted not only medical knowledge but wisdom to budding physicians. Being named a Best Doctor in America many times over, both his students and their future patients reaped the benefit of his counsel.
“I instill in students that we don’t treat diseases; we treat mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, neighbors. We can teach skills, but being a good physician comes down to much more than skills.”

As Dean of LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine for the past 14 years, Dr. Nelson has sought excellence in both recruits and student applicants. “There are two types of people. There are those who read about history and those who make history.” Given the national recognition of his faculty and students, he has a knack for attracting those who make it.

Over the years, that impressive list has included luminaries from beyond the world of science. One of the most notable is Usher Raymond IV. Dr. Nelson invited the recording star and actor, and his Usher’s New Look non-profit organization to New Orleans where he hosted at a meeting at Children’s Hospital. They explored supporting under-resourced youth by giving them the tools to become successful in fields including medicine. The relationship provided young people from New Orleans with invaluable opportunities.
Dr. Steve Nelson with Usher
To say Dr. Steve Nelson is driven would be a vast understatement. He’s worn many hats and many at the same time. From taking care of patients and their families on their worst days to launching major health initiatives that improve health and well-being for thousands. From building back the School of Medicine and helping rebuild the health care infrastructure in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to conducting biosciences research as an accomplished physician-scientist who has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health for the past 40 years. From preparing Louisiana’s next generations of top-notch physicians to growing a robust research enterprise solving some of society’s toughest medical problems. And all along the way, Dr. Nelson has been tapped for positions with ever-increasing responsibilities, moving all the way to the top. Throughout his tenure, he has earned the esteem of his faculty and staff, colleagues, students and residents because of his inclusiveness, generosity and humility. He believes that respect is a two-way street. To him, integrity is more than a word; it is a guidepost by which to lead your life.
Dr. Steve Nelson at White Coat Ceremony
In an interview with New Orleans CityBusiness a few years ago, Dr. Nelson was asked what one thing he would change about himself. He said, “Be a little more patient and appreciate the comedy of life. I’m a fairly intense individual, but my wife and children have helped me not to take myself too seriously. No one can make more fun of you than your children.”

He was then asked where he saw himself in 10 years. “I doubt I’m going to be dean. The average length of a medical school dean is four years. I joke that the only job with a shorter life span is an NFL coach. But hopefully, I’ll still be contributing to medical education.”

And contributing he is. A finalist for several chancellorships at out-of-state universities over the past few years, Dr. Nelson took himself out of consideration to stay at LSU Health New Orleans. He said the decision was simple. “This is home.”