January 16, 2018

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Neurology, Technology and Variety – All at ACMC!

Dr. Merlin Nelson, Neurology, ACMC-Willmar

Merlin V. Nelson, MD, Neurology, ACMC-Willmar

Practicing neurology in a rural setting has many rewards. Unlike in metro locations where so many doctors have to pick sub-specialties, what Dr. Nelson likes about working at ACMC is that he sees a little bit of everything here.  “It isn’t like when you are in a big city where you are sent to all sorts of different specialists, all kinds of neurology patients get sent to me.  I never know what type of case is going to walk through the door and that has kept me interested in coming to work every day,” said Dr. Merlin Nelson, ACMC Neurologist.  “At ACMC we are ‘out in the trenches’ so to speak and so for the patient seeking neurology care, it all starts here.  We have an advantage at ACMC because we have a strong network of primary care doctors who can take care of the simple neurology needs of the patient, but when the medical needs become too complex, we keep our patients local and they come to see me.”

A Variety of Patients

Dr. Nelson has a wide variety in his patient mix, but care of people with migraines is his highest area of demand right now.  “I’ve spent a lot of time taking extra continuing education courses over the years to become very competent in migraine care and it is a rare instance for me to send someone elsewhere for treatment of their migraines,” said Nelson.  “Parkinson’s Disease is also very common in rural settings and is another significant part of my patient population.  Years ago I was a pharmacist working along with a neurologist who was dealing with a high number of cases of people with Parkinson’s disease; that experience is what got me interested in the field of neurology.  I also have a couple hundred patients that have Epilepsy and Multiple Sclerosis and I am seeing an increased number of instances of Lou Gehrig’s disease.”

“It isn’t like when you are in a big city where you are sent to all sorts of different specialists, all kinds of neurology patients get sent to me.  I never know what type of case is going to walk through the door and that has kept me interested in coming to work every day,”

Special Treatments and Tests

There are special treatments and tests that Dr. Nelson offers in his practice.  He uses Botulinum Toxin (Botox), for medical purposes only, to help people with spasms in their face or neck as botox helps to weaken the overactive muscles.  Also, twice a week Dr. Nelson performs EMG’s which is a procedure where he shocks the nerves of his patients to see how long the shock takes to travel down stream to help to detect things like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, neuropathies, pinched nerves in the neck and more.

Benefits of working at ACMC

During his years at ACMC, Dr. Nelson has enjoyed being involved in a group practice.  “The reason I chose to be in a group practice is because I didn’t want to get involved in the business side of being a medical provider,” said Nelson.  “I’m not interested in being on a board or getting involved in administration; my main interest is taking care of my patients and here I can do just that and can lead my practice in the direction I want it to go.  The call schedule, or shall I say the fact that there isn’t much of a call schedule, is also something I appreciate as I’m only officially on call two days a week.  The great thing about living in a rural community is that when I do get called in, I am only a 5 minute drive away and can be back home soon after I am done.  I love my work schedule; I start my day at the clinic at 7am and work until about 5pm.  As for consultations, I work mostly with Rice Memorial Hospital and any patients I might have over there I see after work.” Dr. Nelson also travels to the clinic in Montevideo once a month.

Technology is Top Notch

The technology available at ACMC is very impressive.  “Years ago when I came to ACMC from a huge one thousand bed facility, I was amazed at how quickly I got test results back,” said Nelson.”  “I remember that where I came from, I could order an MRI and other tests for the patient and would get back to them in about a week with all the results.  Here, I could have an ophthalmologist call me in the morning about a patient with possible optic neuritis, which is a pre-cursor to MS. I would then order an MRI to be done, see the patient over my noon hour, order a spinal tap in the afternoon and have the test results back the same day.  This would never happen in a bigger city. Now that was years back, but ACMC is always moving and thinking forward in regards to technology and we have great resources available to meet the needs of our patients.  We have had electronic medical records (EMR) available for our patients for about five years now as many facilities are just starting to implement this system.  I can also look at MRI results right in my office whether they were done here at ACMC in Willmar, at one of our other clinics or from the hospital.  I used to have to go over to the hospital to look the results or have them sent to me.”

Working with Medical Students

ACMC works with medical students in all areas of studies.  “Not too long ago, I had a couple of medical students come to spend some time with me in neurology during their rotation,” said Dr. Nelson.  “I think that I provided a very unique experience for the students because this was a clinic-based rotation.  In neurology, you usually won’t find this type of experience unless in an academic setting, which will still most likely be hospital-based.  I also found it very stimulating to have a student spend time with me asking questions about what I do, thus learning from me.”

What I Like About Willmar

“Living in the Willmar area has been a positive experience for me and my family,” said Dr. Nelson.  “My wife and I raised our children here and had a great experience with the school system.  The great part about our location now is that we are almost in the central part of the state and we are just a couple hours from the metro area, to Duluth where our daughter lives and to Fargo where our other daughter lives.  We consider this to be close enough but yet far enough away to not live in the rat race of being in a bigger city.  I’m not spending my time commuting to work for my job, I’m right here.  It leaves plenty of time for my hobbies of reading, photography, mountain biking, kayaking and canoeing.  Rural living is definitely the place to be!

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