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Jacksonville campus welcomes new UF Health president

Published: June 7, 2019
UF Health President David R. Nelson, MD, greets faculty and staff during a reception in his honor on the UF Health Jacksonville campus. View Larger Image
David R. Nelson, MD, president of UF Health and senior vice president for health affairs at the University of Florida, has been part of the academic health system for 26 years. View Larger Image
Pictured from left are UF Health Jacksonville CEO Leon L. Haley Jr., MD, MHSA; UF Health President David R. Nelson, MD; and University of Florida President Kent Fuchs. View Larger Image
The crowd looks on as David R. Nelson, MD, delivers remarks, which touched on ways to collaborate and position the UF Health Jacksonville campus for continued success. View Larger Image

David R. Nelson, MD, shares his vision for the academic health center.

The blue and orange decorations, dazzling floral arrangements and elegant hors d'oeuvres accented a space that was already filled with excitement and anticipation Wednesday, June 5.

The occasion was to celebrate the appointment of David R. Nelson, MD, as UF Health’s new leader while learning about his vision for the academic health center. For the Jacksonville campus, he says that includes accommodating full-time medical students, further leveraging research and enhancing clinical services.

“We are doubling down on Jacksonville. This is part of our future, and it has to succeed,” said Nelson, the new president of UF Health and senior vice president for health affairs at the University of Florida. He assumed the dual role in April after serving in an interim capacity for nearly a year.

University of Florida President Kent Fuchs headlined two events June 5 that allowed UF Health faculty, staff, students and others in Gainesville and Jacksonville to formally welcome Nelson. On the UF Health Jacksonville campus, an afternoon reception was held in the Learning Resource Center Atrium.

“I want to share just how incredibly happy I am personally that Dr. Nelson chose to lead UF Health and what a fortunate thing it is for UF Health Jacksonville, UF Health and the University of Florida,” Fuchs said. “The search committee did an exhaustive national search and had stellar candidates. But following an extensive review and interview process, there was a strong consensus that Dave was the superior candidate.”

A champion for collaboration

Nelson, who has been affiliated with UF Health for 26 years, is also a professor of medicine, assistant vice president for research and director of the UF Clinical and Translational Science Institute. He has maintained those roles while guiding a health system that includes six health science colleges, nine interdisciplinary research centers, two hospital systems and more than 100 physician practices.

Over the past year, UF Health leaders have lauded Nelson for his commitment to collaboration. Leon L. Haley Jr., MD, MHSA, CEO of UF Health Jacksonville and dean of the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville, says that attribute will bode well for the Jacksonville campus.

“Dr. Nelson has intimate knowledge of the organizational matrices and a strong understanding of the strengths, weaknesses and needs for the entire health system,” Haley said. “He has been a great advocate for the Jacksonville campus and I look forward to working closely with him moving forward.”

Those in attendance at the Jacksonville reception learned a little about Nelson’s personal side. In a special prerecorded video shown on the TV screens, his twin brother, Matt, jokingly told viewers that UF Health is getting a “two-for-one” deal in choosing Nelson as its leader. The video also included heartfelt reflection from Nelson’s sister, son and wife — Jill Freedman, MD, a UF Health anesthesiologist.

Later, Nelson’s address drew huge applause when he mentioned plans for the Jacksonville campus to feature a regional medical school for UF. Right now, the College of Medicine – Jacksonville only accommodates third- and fourth-year medical students on a rotating basis. That may change over the next few years, as a special delegation is coming to Jacksonville next month to form a launch timeline and discuss metrics.

“I am absolutely committed to bringing a regional medical school campus to this community,” Nelson said. “I am passionate about this.”

Nelson also spoke about the need for UF Health’s Gainesville and Jacksonville campuses to collaborate while also leveraging the special features of each. In Jacksonville, Nelson wants to see additional emphasis on telehealth, precision medicine and high-impact research — areas that can align well with the campus’ safety-net mission. 

“We need to put Jacksonville on the map and highlight some of your world-class programs,” Nelson told the audience. “I look forward to working with all of you as we advance the mission for UF Health Jacksonville and, hopefully together, the University of Florida.” 

UF Health President David R. Nelson, MD, greets faculty and staff during a reception in his honor on the UF Health Jacksonville campus.
David R. Nelson, MD, president of UF Health and senior vice president for health affairs at the University of Florida, has been part of the academic health system for 26 years.
Pictured from left are UF Health Jacksonville CEO Leon L. Haley Jr., MD, MHSA; UF Health President David R. Nelson, MD; and University of Florida President Kent Fuchs.
The crowd looks on as David R. Nelson, MD, delivers remarks, which touched on ways to collaborate and position the UF Health Jacksonville campus for continued success.

For more information, please contact:
UF Health Media Relations
904-244-3268