Dr. Paul Nelson

Paul B. Nelson, MD, FAANS
NSA Medalist 2022

Paul Benjamin Nelson was born in 1946 in Iowa City, Iowa as the son of a college professor and a librarian. He was raised in central Pennsylvania where he received his undergraduate degree at The Pennsylvania State University. He received his medical school training in the second class at The Penn State Hershey College of Medicine. He was introduced to neurosurgery at that time by Dr. Richard Bergland.

He received his neurosurgical training from 1974 to 1979 under Dr. Peter Jannetta at the University of Pittsburgh Medical College (UPMC). He stayed at UPMC and became Vice Chairman and Residency Director of the Department of Neurological Surgery. From 1979 to 1992 he served as Chief of Neurosurgery and President of the Medical Staff at the Presbyterian University Hospital. In 1992, he replaced Dr. Robert Campbell and became the Betsey Barton Chair of Neurosurgery at Indiana University School of Medicine. In 2011, Dr. Nelson turned over the chairmanship to Dr. Nicholas Barbaro. In 2013, Dr. Nelson accepted a position with the Penn State Hershey College of Medicine’s new Regional Campus at University Park, PA. He served as an Interim Associate Dean of Clinical Affairs, a consultant, and helped develop the Penn State Health Family Medicine Residency Program.

At Indiana University, he trained 43 residents and mentored 77 students who chose neurosurgery as a career. He recruited 14 faculty members. He increased the department’s endowments and helped to develop an NIH funded head and spinal cord injury research program. For two years, he served as the Interim President and CEO of the IU School of Medicine’s Practice Plan and Interim Executive Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs. In 2011-2012 he was involved with the merger that created the neurosurgical group Goodman Campbell Brain and Spine and had a leadership position in the planning and building of the Indiana University Health Neuroscience Center (Goodman Hall/Neurosciences Research Building).

His memberships include Phi Eta Sigma, Phi Kappa Phi, Omicron Delta Kappa, Society of Neurological Surgeons, American Academy of Neurological Surgeons, Neurosurgery Society of American (NSA), the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS), and the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS). He is a past Secretary and President of the NSA.

Dr. Nelson served on the Board of Directors of the Indiana Hospital Association, the Indiana University Health Professional Liability Captive Insurance Company, the Indiana State Department of Health Head and Spinal Cord Injury Research Fund, the Indiana University Hospital, and the Indiana University Health West Hospital.

His honors include the Penn State University Alumni Fellow Award, the McEllroy Award to honor outstanding graduates of the University of Pittsburgh Residency Programs, and the Glenn Irwin Award for distinguished faculty service to the Indiana University School of Medicine. In 2012, he served as faculty President of Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA). In 2014, he was awarded the Indiana University President Medal (McRobbie). A Paul B. Nelson Professorship was established in 2012 and Paul B. Nelson Endowed Chair was created in 2019. In 2021, he received the Penn State University Libraries READ Award. In 2022, he received the Neurosurgical Society of America (NSA) Medal.

His research interests included studies of hyponatremia, blood volume, salt balance, vasopressin, and cerebral salt wasting in neurosurgical patients. He was also interested in pituitary disorders, degenerative spinal disorders, and professional liability reform. He has 71 publications, 51 Abstracts, and 70 presentations at national meetings.

His wife of 52 years, Teresa, worked as both a school teacher and a piano teacher. They have two sons, Jonathan and Benjamin, and a daughter Jennifer. Their five grandchildren are Lucy, Paul, Hugo, Eleanor, and Cullen. Dr. Nelson’s outside interests include exercise, golf, farming, and family activities.