Gary D. Nelson, PhD
As president, Gary D. Nelson, Ph.D. is responsible for executive management of the Foundation’s program and financial operations in pursuit of its mission to advance the health of all Georgians and expand access to affordable quality healthcare for underserved individuals and communities. Appointed in 2002, Dr. Nelson was responsible for the initial establishment of the Foundation’s strategic grantmaking programs, policies and priorities including innovative charitable activities supporting Georgia’s nonprofit sector. In his role, he pursues the Board’s vision for health equity through compassionate and disciplined grantmaking. His thought leadership and work on health disparities is grounded science, built on partnerships, and focused on results.
Previously, Nelson served as program director at The California Wellness Foundation, reporting directly to the President and CEO with responsibilities for the Foundation’s leadership on issues of evaluation, population health, and healthy aging. Prior to his philanthropic work, Dr. Nelson was employed at the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention where he managed several nationally significant evaluation projects and served as an Associate Director for Evaluation, Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. Dr. Nelson has held academic appointments in public health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He began his public health career at the Utah State Department of Public Health. In 2017, he was recognized as one of Georgia’s “Giants” in Public Health.
He has been a frequent writer and speaker on population health, program evaluation, and organizational performance and effectiveness. He was honored as the Sellars Mcroan invited Lecturer in 2012 by the Georgia Public Health Association. Throughout his 40 year career, he has provided leadership to the fields of public health and philanthropy. Dr. Nelson has served as Board Chair of the Georgia Department of Public Health and Georgia State’s University’s School of Public Health-Board of Advisors. He currently holds adjunct faculty appointments at several schools and colleges of public health in Georgia.
Recognized for his thought leadership in philanthropy, he has served on the Council of Foundation’s Research Committee, a national effort to promote diversity in philanthropy, and Boards of Grantmakers Evaluation Network, Grantmakers in Aging, and Grantmakers for Children, Youth, and Families. He frequently consults with health foundations and federal health agencies on issues of mission, vision, and philanthropic strategy. Nelson is a recipient of the legendary philanthropist award for his contributions to Georgia’s nonprofit sector.
Dr. Nelson received his bachelor’s degree at Kansas State University and his PhD at the University of Utah.