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March 15, 2024

During PALTC24 last week, Dallas Nelson, MD, CMD, was honored as Medical Director of the Year. While she may have been surprised to receive this award, her colleagues weren’t. She is known as a leader, a collaborator, a team player, an educator, an innovator, and a friend.

“This is very meaningful for me,” she said. “It’s so gratifying to get this vote of confidence. It means a great deal that my colleagues took the time and effort to nominate me… This is a nice validation that I am doing the right things.”

Today, Dr. Nelson has many roles. She is an active medical director, professor of medicine at the University of Rochester (UR) in New York, director of the UR Medicine Geriatrics Group, chair of the UR Medicine Home Care Board of Directors, immediate past president of the American Board of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care, immediate past president of the New York Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care, and chair of AMDA’s Public Policy Telemedicine Workgroup. During the final General Session at PALTC24, she offered an update on telemedicine and her group’s efforts to ensure practitioners and patients have adequate and appropriate access to this technology.

Dr. Nelson is no stranger to hard work and focusing on specific goals. “I was a competitive swimmer growing up and had the great fortune of our team winning the Iowa state title. I experienced the direct relationship between my swimming efforts and the results. When you work harder, you do better,” she says. She brought this commitment to her career, and she has had a positive impact and touched many lives.

“I was attracted to this field partly because I believe in care systems and the ability to have a positive impact on quality of care as a medical director,” says Dr. Nelson. During the pandemic, this belief was put to the test; and it was proven to be true. She led efforts to create a COVID-19 positive unit, enabling the facility to safely take patients from the hospital. This also made it possible for individuals to get out of acute settings faster and into rehabilitation sooner. “When monoclonal antibodies came out, we were excited about their utility. I learned quickly how to use and order these so we could get them promptly. We could order them and share them with others,” she says. “I would drive them all over Rochester to where they were needed.”

Dr. Nelson worked with her team to develop special to-go kits with infusion and intravenous materials to lessen the challenge of initiating a new treatment. She explains, “We worked within our home to improve care and expand our learning to others in the broader community. It was a wonderful way to do something positive in a challenging situation.”

She also worked closely with Ghinwa Dumyati, MD, CMD, professor of medicine/infectious diseases at UR, to form a collaborative of medical directors to develop standards of care for common infections, clinical education, and antibiotic stewardship tools for local skilled nursing facilities. The collaborative also focused efforts on deprescribing. As a result, the community successfully decreased the rate of fluroquinolone use.

Collaboration and teamwork come naturally to Dr. Nelson, and her efforts during the pandemic are just one example. She also participated in the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality COVID-19 Action Network, where she provided knowledge and leadership and updated the best practices to share with nursing homes throughout the region.

Committed to supporting the care team, promoting better communication, and improving the medical care in her buildings, Dr. Nelson stays abreast of regulatory changes and new guidance and shares this information with staff. She also is a source of information about billing and coding updates.

The future was wide open when Dr. Nelson was young and winning swim meets. What would teenaged Dallas Nelson think of her subsequent professional successes? She notes, “I would have been completely surprised. At that age, I had no idea that I would become a physician. I knew I liked science, but I thought I would be a researcher or an educator.” Today, she can’t imagine taking any other path. “I kept opening doors and found better and better fits,” she says.

The Medical Director of the Year Award recognizes those individuals whose vision, passion, leadership, knowledge, and commitment succeed in taking patient care to exceptional levels of quality, excellence, and innovation. It has been awarded to an outstanding practitioner since 2007.

Watch this video of Dr. Nelson discussing her award.