Alumni Success Story: James Nelson ’12

DU Basketball star turned healthcare advocate for Spectrum Health

James Nelson ’12, is not a stranger to wearing multiple hats.  As a DU student, he was a star basketball player, volunteer and leader. His current role as a Physician Liaison at Spectrum Health is no different. Motivated by the loss of his mother at a young age and the support of his family, James puts his passion for healthcare and business education from DU to work at Spectrum Health. He is responsible for supporting relationships with primary care physicians throughout the greater Grand Rapids area, helping to develop post acute care services, and emergency medicine within the United and Kelsey Hospital systems. His goal is to provide excellent health care options for our community. Read James’ full Alumni Success Story interview below.

Q & A with James Nelson

Tell me about yourself, James!

I was born and raised in New Haven, MI.  My mom passed away when I was a kid and it changed my life forever. My sister raised me and my other two brothers. After high school, I originally went to Grand Valley to play ball and become a dentist. But, quickly learned it was not for me.  I transferred to DU to continue my career and earn my BBA.  I had a few different healthcare jobs after college on the east side of the state. I live in Grand Rapids now and work as a Physician Liaison at Spectrum Health.

What was your experience like at DU?

I loved my experience at DU. I had a great group of friends on and off the basketball court. The staff and professors were great. I can still remember talking international business with Frank Novakowski, organizational management with Marjolijn van der Velde, and sports marketing with Steve Project. The lessons I learned in the classroom were not just from the book, but real-life examples and hands-on experiences.

What was a favorite memory of your experience at DU?

Some of my favorite memories are from experiences with Campus Life.  In my junior and senior years, I became really involved.  I helped with Panther Prowl as a Panther Prowl Pack Leader, cleaned up the Grand River with the volunteer center and assisted with freshman move-in.  It was a great learning experience.

What do you do now?

Healthcare has always been a big interest of mine.  Between that and BBA in business, my role at Spectrum is a perfect fit. As a Physician Liaison, I am a link between Spectrum Health and the physicians in our community. My focus is on continuing care services and emergency medicine within the United and Kelsey Hospital systems. My overall goal is to be an advocate for patients by developing relationships and offering services to ensure excellent health care options for our community. I wear many hats, but it is a very challenging and rewarding job.

Define success.

My definition of success has changed every year. I believe success is when you do something that you love. As I grew older, I learned that is not about the money, but more about the happiness I had while doing the job.

What motivates you?

My family motivates me.  They cared for me when my mom passed away and I cannot thank them enough for always being there for me.  It means a lot to know that people care about me in every step of my life.

What is your dream job?

I would love to own a company that focuses on positively impacting the community.

What advice do you have for DU recent grads?

It takes time to define what success means to you. Your definition of “success” may not happen overnight. Be patient and do not give up!

What do you do when you are not working?

I still love to play basketball. I play 4-5 days a week.  I love spending time with my fiance, Lily, and our new dog, Ralph. We spend a lot of time planning our wedding and fixing up our house.


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