Physicians with Heart: Dr. James Nelson

For Tony Nelson, MD, returning to Atlanta, where he spent a good bit of his youth, to work at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Heart Center seemed like a pipe dream. He’d always heard that when pediatric cardiologists landed a position there, they rarely left. But in 2019, fresh from a fellowship at Seattle Children’s Hospital, he was offered just such a position at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology.

“I was ecstatic,” Dr. Nelson said. “The relationships I’ve formed with others in the practice and with the staff make Children’s Cardiology stand out as an excellent place to work.”

Dr. Nelson was first inspired to pursue pediatric cardiology when he heard a lecture from his professor and one of his mentors at Duke University about fetal heart circulation. Dr. Armstrong, the third black female pediatric cardiologist in the country, gave the lecture that made him fall in love with cardiology and influenced his future career path.

“It was remarkable to me at the time to learn how everything worked in concert in the heart to allow blood to flow through it, and then the abrupt shift that happens after birth,” Dr. Nelson said.

Dr. Nelson said his colleagues at Children’s Cardiology all exhibit not only a drive to do their very best for themselves, but for every patient. This drive and personal ownership mean that everything flows easily as the team cares for patients.

“You know that they’re not here just doing a job, but they’re doing something that they feel led to do,” Dr. Nelson said.

He enjoys getting to know the families he works with, particularly when they can connect over their life experiences in Georgia. Dr. Nelson played basketball at his Atlanta-area high school when he was growing up, and he delights in sharing those experiences with his sports-minded young patients. Connecting with families over the long-term is what ultimately makes his job meaningful, he said.

“It’s very fulfilling to be able to be with families from the initial diagnosis of an illness to the repair and recovery,” Dr. Nelson said. “It means a lot to me to guide folks through the tough moments in the first minutes, hours and days of a diagnosis and see them through to discharge.”

James Anthony Nelson Jr.

  • Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Emory University


  • Medical school: Duke University School of Medicine
  • Residency: Duke University Medical Center: Pediatrics
  • Fellowship: Seattle Children’s Hospital: Pediatric Cardiology

Bio sketch

As part of an Army family, Dr. Nelson spent his childhood in different cities across the Midwest and East Coast, before his family settled just outside Atlanta, for the majority of his schooling. He earned his undergraduate degree in Biology at Morehouse College in Atlanta. He later earned his Medical Doctorate from Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, NC, where he also completed pediatrics residency training and won the championship intramural basketball game in Cameron Stadium. Dr. Nelson went on to complete fellowship training at Seattle Children’s Hospital in pediatric cardiology.

Dr. Nelson provides care for children with congenital heart disease with a focus that spans both the inpatient and outpatient arenas. He enjoys the intellectual rigor of deciphering complex cardiac anatomy and physiology and designing effective treatment plans well suited to the physical, social and emotional needs of his patients and their families. He relishes the opportunity to build compassionate and therapeutic relationships with the families that he cares for in both the inpatient and outpatient realms. Dr. Nelson’s fulfillment comes from the relationships he builds with patients and families while navigating these two different but complementary care settings. Dr. Nelson also enjoys playing basketball, building and maintaining his saltwater aquarium, cooking delicious meals and hiking with his wife, 11-year-old daughter, 14-month-old son, and lovable dog, Bear.

Areas of focus

  • Congenital heart disease
  • Post-operative management
  • Education of trainees
  • Clinical research

Clinical interests

  • Single ventricle physiology
  • Inpatient Management of Congenital Heart Disease

Research interests

  • Quality Improvement
  • Impact of Cardiovascular disease on other Organ Systems

Professional affiliations

  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • American Heart Association

For more information about Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology and our pediatric cardiology specialists, click here.


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