Harvard Catalyst Profiles

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Brett Dee Nelson, M.D.

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Biography
2019
Distinguished Alumni Award
2023
Distinghuished Alumni Award

Overview
I am a pediatrician and public health professional (Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School; Assistant Pediatrician, Massachusetts General Hospital) whose interests are advocacy and health care provision for vulnerable populations, particularly children and individuals affected by conflict and crisis. My work in these disciplines has included clinical care, program development, advocacy, education, and needs-based research in many resource-limited settings.

My training includes MD and MPH degrees from Johns Hopkins, with MPH concentrations in humanitarian assistance and human rights, and an advanced diploma in tropical medicine from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. I completed my pediatric training in the Boston Combined Residency Program in Pediatrics (Harvard Medical School / Boston University School of Medicine). Following residency training, I helped develop the nation’s first Pediatric Global Health Fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital. In my capacity as the first fellow, I served as the Senior Pediatrician for the Liberian Ministry of Health and as the Interim Chair of Pediatrics and Newborn Medicine at Liberia’s sole teaching hospital. Working with my local Liberian colleagues, I led efforts in establishing pediatric and newborn care and training in a post-conflict country without pediatricians.

Since the early 1990s, I have also been involved in significant academic research and consultancy in over a dozen disrupted areas (e.g. central, eastern, and western Africa, the Balkans, Middle East, Haiti, etc.) while working for organizations such as the CDC, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Massachusetts General Hospital, International Rescue Committee, International Red Cross and Red Crescent, and Médecins Sans Frontières. This work has included pediatric clinical care, post-conflict health services development, HIV/AIDS surveillance in conflict-affected regions, as well as the establishment of clinical training programs stateside and in developing countries. I also led the development of innovative methodologies for the assessment of health services in resource-limited settings. This novel participatory approach integrates qualitative and quantitative methods and has now been successfully applied to many diverse settings. My academic accomplishments have been kindly recognized in several international conference presentations and in over a dozen peer-reviewed publications, including three first-authored articles in the leading journal, Pediatrics. I co-direct a popular global health and tropical medicine course at Harvard Medical School, “Clinical Topics in Global Health” (ME715.J). I am the editor of the textbook, 'Essential Clinical Global Health' (http://bit.ly/ECGHbn).

I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to work in pediatrics and global health. Given children’s inherent vulnerability, I strongly feel it’s imperative to give them greater voice and to work towards eliminating or mitigating the tragic impact of global conflict and crisis upon child health.

Mentoring
Available: 11/23/23, Expires: 12/31/26

We maintain an online database of global health fellowships (globalhealthfellowships.org), which seeks to provide clinical trainees with a free comprehensive list of these training opportunities. Global health fellowships have been growing significantly in number the last couple of decades, with fellowships now in nearly every medical specialty, including emergency medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, family medicine, women's health, psychiatry, etc. We would be delighted to work with a student in updating this database -- perhaps a student interested in global health and/or medical education. This would entail 1) assessing whether the programs listed in our database are still current and 2) trying to identify other programs that are not yet listed in the database. This would not be the most rigorous or demanding project but would be a flexible opportunity to work closely with global health faculty and to learn more about global health education while based in Boston. If we can be helpful, we're also happy to mentor students on any of their other global health-related projects.

Perceptions of Tanzanian Health Care Workers Towards the Use of Mobile Phone Clinical Protocols
International, 06/14/12 - 08/04/12

Bibliographic
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Funded by the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences through its Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program, grant number UL1TR002541.