Shortly after this article was written, Dr. Nelson passed away unexpectedly.

Dr. Roy Nelson still remembers that spring day in 2000. The new bronze sculpture of Jesus, Eden Restored, was being unveiled at the front entrance of Avista Adventist Hospital, and almost as though it had been staged, children began playfully interacting with it. Over the years since then, he’s often observed children sitting on the lap of Jesus, adults lingering nearby, and people connecting with this life-sized piece of art that acts as a reminder of Christ’s invitation to enter into a personal relationship with Him.

The piece serves as a fitting welcome to Avista, a hospital that places restoration and faith at the center of its healing work—a commitment that Dr. Nelson, a pediatrician, shares.

Nelson’s roots in Adventist healthcare go back to the day he was recruited to Boulder Memorial Hospital in 1981. When Avista opened, he was one of the first physicians to take up residency in the medical office building. A third-generation Adventist, Nelson has cultivated his career with faith at the center. “Portraying the healing ministry of Jesus Christ is in our hospital mission statement. I want to portray that to others,” he says. “And it’s more than that. What I’ve found—and what surprised me—is that there’s a nicer atmosphere working with people who share this desire. It’s collegial and supportive.”

Besides the role his upbringing played, Nelson traces the shaping of his views of faith-based healthcare back to his education—first at Union College, and then at Loma Linda University. “I was eager to attend an Adventist Christian school and eventually be associated with Adventist hospitals,” says Nelson. It was at Union, while studying to be a science teacher, that he made the decision to pursue medicine.

Pediatrics, he’s found, has been a good fit for him all the way around. “Imagine a job where you get to play with cute kids all day long and get paid for it,” he quips.

One of the few remaining solo practice owners, Nelson likes the freedom of deciding how his practice will run. At times, that may mean providing services at no cost for patients in certain situations. Or offering them support and resources—like parenting books that he loans from his own library. It also means that he not only gives his patients direct access to him after hours, he’s been known to make house calls, as well. “I work hard to help my patients feel comfortable,” he adds.

As for his relationship with Avista, he’s an advocate for their distinctive way of delivering healthcare. “I tell my patients that Avista is one of the best places in Denver metro to have a baby. It’s certifiable. It’s safe as far as outcomes, there’s lots of support for parents, and patients really feel the deep sense of caring there. All the staff—doctors, nurses, janitors, cafeteria workers—go the extra mile.”

Article and photo courtesy of Rocky Mountain Adventist Health System/Centura Health