Each month, Touro University Nevada will highlight a different faculty member in a new feature called “Faculty Focus.” This month, we sat down with Matthew Carlson, DO and Associate Professor in the College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Where did you grow up?
Saint Paul, Minn.
How did you end up at Touro University Nevada?
Well, I decided that I wanted to go to medical school.
I moved to Virginia from Minnesota to be with my wife, since that’s where she was from. When I decided to go back to medical school, I was working as both a paramedic and an educator at Tidewater Community College in Virginia.
I had a very long conversation with a mentor of mine and his quote to me was “Carlson, you have a shelf life.” I was in the process of becoming a firefighter paramedic, and I knew that if I didn’t do anything different, that would ultimately be my career path. I wasn’t 110 percent behind it, so I talked it over with my wife and told her I wanted to go back to school.
So, I went to Old Dominion University to finish my Bachelors of Science in Biology. When I was finished, I interviewed at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, Lake Erie College in Ohio and here at Touro University.
Tell us about your interview at Touro.
Everything leading up to my interview was kind of weird. I had some problems in Virginia getting to the airport. When I got here, I had problems getting to my interview from the hotel.
I finally got into my room at 1 a.m., and I told the bellhop that I needed a wake-up call and a taxi to be here in the morning because I had my medical school interview first thing in the morning. Well, the next morning, I walked downstairs and the staff had no idea who I was. Nobody had called the taxi, so I called the school to tell them what happened.
The hotel eventually called the taxi, but I was freaking out because I was still going to be a half hour late. So, I’m standing in the doorway waiting for my taxi, and this gentleman approached me and offered me a ride.
So, I get to my interview, and the only seat available is right next to the former Dean, Dr. Forman, at the front of the room. He introduces me as “The late Matthew Carlson” and carries that through the entire morning. My actual degree at that time, aside from my B.S., was a Bachelor’s of English and Secondary Education. Nobody else at that table had an “alternative degree” and nobody at that table was a non-traditional student. Shortly after, Dr. Forman asked me if I was familiar with the prologue to The Canterbury Tales. I said ‘yes,’ and we both start reciting it together. It was incredible.
The interview went very well, and when I went to leave campus, it started to snow. Since waiting for a taxi would’ve made me late for my flight, a student offered me a ride to the airport. Turns out, we both listen to NPR and spent the entire ride there discussing “A Prairie Home Companion.”
Now I’m at the airport waiting for my flight. I get to the ‘C’ Gate, take five bucks out of my pocket, and drop it into the slot machine. I took it all the way down to a buck, spun it one last time, and hit “7’s” all the way across for like $700 right as they were calling my flight.
So, I got back to Virginia and told my wife that the universe wanted me to go to Las Vegas. And that’s how I ended up here at Touro University Nevada.
What attracted you to Touro?
Well, it was a new program so I knew I wouldn’t be part of the status quo. Hearing stories from the students who were already there talking about having to wear hard hats to class was really cool, and my interview was great. Everything resonated, and this was the only place that really made sense to me.
What was the experience like going from alumnus, to resident, and eventually to faculty?
While I was working at Valley Hospital, I also came here to guest lecture. It wasn’t like I was ever fully separated from Touro. Aside from the two years I spent working at a private practice, I always had some involvement with the university.
What is “Bow Tie” Tuesday?
When I found out I was coming back to Touro to be a professor, my friend told me “You can’t be a professor without a bow tie.” So, he bought me one. Having never worn a bow tie before, I went on YouTube and learned how to tie it a bunch of different ways.
I bought a different bow tie for each Tuesday of the year. I’ve got a Deadpool bow tie; a Hello Kitty bow tie; a Union Jack bow tie; some Harry Potter bow ties and many more.
I told myself I’d do it for a year. After the year was over, there were Tuesdays that would go by and students would ask me where my bow tie was. Then my patients started asking me where my bow tie was. I didn’t think anyone would notice if I didn’t wear it, to be totally honest. They noticed it more when I wasn’t wearing a bow tie because they were just so used to me wearing it. So for the last two years, I’ve worn a bow tie every Tuesday.
When you’re not at work, what might we find you doing?
I like to do endurance sports, marathons and triathlons. I also enjoy helping my wife take care of her horses. Also, I enjoy reading sci-fi and history.
If you could give your students one piece of advice, what would it be?
You need to find joy in those who seek your help. When I was in school, I struggled with that during my clinical time. During the rest of medical school and my residency, that was a mantra that really helped me.
When you’re overwhelmed, you just have to ask yourself, “Why am I here?” Whenever I found myself in the stairwell at the hospital feeling totally wrought, I would repeat out loud, “find joy in those who seek my help.” It really helped to ground me.