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Top Doctors in Nashville: Ronald Nelson, MD

Once a flight surgeon in Saudi Arabia, Dr. Nelson counts himself as the luckiest man alive.

Written By:  Melissa Carro

Photographers:  Louisa Wells

Dr. Ronald Nelson is understandably proud of his practice, Stones River Dermatology, in Murfreesboro. He is also keenly aware of its difference from the tent hospital in Saudi Arabia where he practiced as a flight surgeon in the 1990s.

“I am the luckiest man alive, both personally and professionally,” says Nelson, who attributes much of the practice’s success to his staff. “Our practice has grown tremendously in the four years since we opened, and that’s a credit to my wonderful staff.”

Certainly the growth has been significant. Nelson opened the private practice in 2010 with one receptionist. Now he is able to help patients with a full-service dermatology practice—a one-stop shop for the entire array of a person’s skin issues, from skin cancer removal and biopsies to Botox injections. As a sole practitioner who sees 175 to 200 patients per week, Nelson’s free time is limited. What free time he does have he prefers to spend with his wife, daughter, and dog, usually traveling together.

Looking back, it is fortuitous that the Nelsons ended up in Murfreesboro, a place they consider an idyllic small town. “It was like it was meant to be for us to be here,” Nelson explains. “Several years after my residency at Vanderbilt, I had the opportunity to visit Murfreesboro and consider joining a practice there. My wife and I strolled around the downtown area and fell in love with the history of the place.

“We bought a house built in 1911 and the week we moved in, we found out my wife was pregnant,” he says. “It was like everything was falling into place here.”

Although he lives in small-town America, Nelson is always mindful of his years in the Air Force. It was there that he saw lots of skin diseases and problems and became interested in dermatology. It was also there that he developed a lifelong appreciation for the resources in the U.S. In the Air Force, Nelson says he developed a healthy respect for speed—breaking the sound barrier in the backseat of F-15s and F-16s over the Atlantic and Pacific. It was in his fighter squadron that he earned the nickname “Junior” because he was the youngest flight surgeon stationed in Alaska. “I may the only Junior who’s not a junior,” says Nelson. “The name stuck—so much so that it’s even on my business cards.”

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