American College of Physicians: Internal Medicine — Doctors for Adults ®

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Universal coverage, education are priorities for next AMA president

From the November/December ACP Observer, copyright 2007 by the American College of Physicians.

By Stacey Butterfield

Nancy H. Nielsen, MACP

Occupation: Senior associate dean, University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biosciences.

Age: 64

Current residence: Buffalo, N.Y.

Hometown: Elkins, W.Va.

Nancy H. Nielsen, MACP, incoming president of the American Medical Association, announces the AMA's initiative to cover all Americans with health insurance.


Nancy H. Nielsen, MACP, incoming president of the American Medical Association, announces the AMA's initiative to cover all Americans with health insurance.



Family: Five children, seven grandchildren.

Education: Masters and doctorate in microbiology from Catholic University in Washington, D.C.; medical degree from University at Buffalo.

Residency: University at Buffalo.

Specialties: Board certified in internal medicine.

First job: Researcher at NIH for two years between college and graduate school.

Select organizational involvement: Incoming president of the American Medical Association, former member of New York State ASIM board of directors.

Why I became an internist: I knew at age eight that I wanted to be a physician and I have no idea why. The reason I didn’t go when I finished college [she entered medical school at age 29] is I just didn’t have any money at all.

Hardest lesson learned: Sometimes you can’t solve things no matter how hard you try. That may be with patients and their illnesses. It may be with HMOs when you’re trying to advocate for a patient.

Something I wish I’d learned in medical school: I wish I had been taught techniques for helping patients make lifestyle changes. We really were not taught much about how to motivate patients and so much of medicine these days really requires action on the part of the patient.

Most rewarding aspect of my job: The most rewarding part is helping shape future physicians. They are wonderful people who are very idealistic. Helping during their formative years is as rewarding as anything I’ve done.

Most meaningful professional accomplishment: Being named a Master of the ACP.

Most meaningful non-medical accomplishment: That I have happy, well-adjusted kids.

Future goals: To change this country until all Americans have health insurance. I was privileged to announce the AMA’s initiative to cover all Americans at the National Press Club. We have a plan and we want to see it enacted by 2009. If not our plan, then let’s get a plan that is going to do it.

Personal heroes: C. Everett Koop, the former surgeon general, because of his courage and his willingness to say things that were important for the public to understand at a time when there was a lot of political pressure not to do it. Another one—and this may surprise you—is Oprah. I think Oprah has both great passion and great conviction. And she’s very influential. In different ways, they are both role models.

Pet peeve: Whiny people who just give up too soon.

Book on nightstand: I have baskets of books in my bedroom. I just finished—at 5 o’clock this morning—Robin Cooke’s novel Crisis, which is an interesting book that takes on issues of concierge medicine.

Favorite author: My favorite author is Atul Gawande, the surgeon who wrote Complications and Better. I think he is a wonderful communicator, very insightful, just a really interesting, thoughtful surgeon who speaks to physicians and physicians-in-training.

Biggest regret: I wish that my kids had not found my residency years so hard, because none of them considered medicine. And they say they do remember those years as very difficult ones for the family.

Item I can’t live without: Blackberry.

Most surprising thing about me: Most people don’t how fond I am of West Virginia and how much I consider myself still a West Virginian. And how I like country music.

If I weren’t a physician: I’d be a teacher, I’m sure.

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