When Dr. Elizabeth Nelson was only 12 years old, she wanted two things in her future — boy and girl twins and to be a doctor. She got them both.
And though the Englewood, N.J., native may have never prayed at the time to open a medical practice in Beckley, that’s exactly what she will be doing on Monday. And she couldn’t be happier.
“There are preconceived notions people have about West Virginia,” she said, recalling her move to Beckley in 2009. “Then you come and you meet the people, and I just felt like God was here. … I looked up in the sky, and I could see the stars, and I felt like God was present, and it slowed me down in a way like I couldn’t slow down in D.C.
“Prior to coming here, I prayed for my patients. Here, I prayed with them,” she continued. “I just felt like there was something about being here that gave me that freedom.”
Nelson is a board certified internist with a degree from the Howard University College of Medicine. In fact, that’s where she met her husband, local Orthopedist Dr. Matthew Nelson.
“He was sniffing around my body,” she joked, remembering how the couple met over the cadaver she was studying. (He was supposed to be studying a different one.)
Love ensued. While Matthew carried out his residency at Howard, Liz carried out her own at Georgetown University Hospital at the Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. Eventually the married couple moved to South Carolina, where Matthew had his first job out of residency. The young family — blessed with boy-girl twins and a third child — spent two years there.
“So when we moved to West Virginia, the kids were 3, 3, and 1,” Nelson said. “That was definitely hectic. But it was great. I loved that West Virginia is a great place to raise a family.”
Nelson took a job as a hospitalist at Raleigh General. A hospitalist, Nelson explained, is the doctor who takes care of the patient in the hospital. Traditionally, doctors would see patients in the hospital and in their offices, but hospitalists do not have practices outside the hospital.
“Coming from residency, it was a really smooth transition for me to see patients in the hospital,” Nelson said, noting her affinity for working as “somewhat of a detective” alongside specialists to help solve problems. “I like helping to figure out the different diagnoses.”
Nelson worked as a hospitalist at Raleigh General Hospital and the Beckley VA Medical Center.
“I always thought primary care would be something I would do eventually,” she said, recalling how she would often discharge patients from the hospital but then regret never seeing them again or learning how their recovery continued. “I really wanted to see the end of the story. … I wanted to continue to see the patients and actually keep them out of the hospital.”
Nearly two years ago, she left the hospitalist job for an office-based practice at BAR-H’s Southern West Virginia Clinic.
Along the way, she wasted no time involving herself in community activities. Her sorority, Christian-based Delta Sigma Theta, became instrumental in helping her fulfill a continuing need to serve the community, and her churches — she worships at iHeart Church and Heart of God Ministries — helped her to continue growing spiritually. Faith and community service have always been a priority, she said, and when she combined those things with her hospitalist experience, she found another way to help.
“I feel like having done that, working as a hospitalist, it really elevated my understanding of — not just meeting different people, working with nurses, having all the different experiences — but the types of patients, the demographics,” she said. “It definitely gives you the experience you need.”
Among those experiences, unfortunately, was witnessing a growing opioid epidemic in the area, especially among pregnant women.
“It really hit me that I could identify a stigma that I had with respect to the moms that were using substances,” Nelson said. “ … I rebuked myself and asked ‘What can I do, other than judge people, to solve this problem.’ ”
Her answer came in the form of a recovery foundation. And in 2018, she started WIN WV. It’s a foundation that stands for Women and Infant Narcotic Rehabilitation Program, and it focuses on family recovery and restoration. “Women winning against Substance Use Disorder and SUD in pregnancy,” the website, wvwin.org states. “Caring for the neonatal abstinence syndrome infant from the cradle to the community. WIN (Women and Infant Narcotic Rehabilitation Program) West Virginia Foundation, Inc. delivers judgement-free, comprehensive medical care with hope and compassion. Through our expert, multidisciplinary team we give mothers and their children the bright future that they deserve.”
“I was convicted that the only way that I could help solve this problem was that I could help,” Nelson said. “ … It is not a faith-based organization, but my faith is so strong that it is incorporated in everything I do, including my practice.”
And her new practice, Beckley Internal Medicine, opens Monday, at the Beckley Medical Arts building on South Kanawha Street.
“I am excited to be able to take care of people,” she said, “address their issues, help them have a better, healthier life.”
In addition to internal medicine and physical exams, Nelson’s practice also includes women’s health — pelvic and breast exams and PAP smears — though she points out that any complex gynecological issue will be referred to her colleagues, the Associates in OB-GYN at Access Health.
Nelson’s primary care practice will also be offering bio-TE, a bio-identical hormone replacement therapy that uses non-synthetic hormones to help men and women adjust hormone levels to help with symptoms including insomnia, lower libido, depression and weight gain.
“I see the benefits of bio-TE in patients,” she said. “They feel better. They have more energy for their families, more intimacy with their partners. They feel like themselves again.”
Nelson said she is “super excited” about accepting new patients and looks forward to seeing them at her new office on Monday. For more information, call 304-317-6095. Or visit www.beckleyinternalmedicine.com.