Neil Nelson, MD, wears many hats in Gibson City, the east-central Illinois town of 3,400 or so souls where he grew up and now practices primary care.
In addition to being an internist and pediatrician, Nelson, 53, is a licensed pharmacist. He has a deputy sheriff's Stetson that he dons occasionally as a volunteer auxiliary police officer with the Ford County Sheriff's Department. And when he's not helping the sheriff, Nelson can be found helping his 77-year-old mother with various farm chores on their nearby acreage.
Of course, Nelson never takes off his doctor hat. Even when he's working at law enforcement or farming, Nelson remains on call 24/7 to attend to the 5,000 or so active patients in his practice. And even though he concedes he is something of a dinosaur, Nelson's not complaining.
"This is something you have to enjoy and if you don't enjoy it don't get into it," says Nelson, who in December was named the winner of the 2012 Country Doctor of the Year award.
"Pick a different specialty where you don't have to work 24/7. Pick a sub-specialty where you can work 8-5 with time off without any worries," he says. "But if you like patients and you want to have your own practice and you want to be a doctor like in the old days, go ahead and do this. You just have to be aware of the commitment that is necessary for this type of practice."
The annual Country Doctor of the Year Award has been around since 1992 and "recognizes the spirit, skill, and dedication of rural medical practitioners" in communities of 30,000 or less.