Marita Lee Nelson
Marita Lee Nelson

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Anatomy Professor Emerita Marita Lee Nelson, who served as the longtime director of the Willed Body Program at the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM), died on August 8, 2021. Family, friends and colleagues held a virtual celebration of life in her honor on December 4.

After an illustrious academic career on the U.S. mainland, Nelson joined the JABSOM faculty in 1974 as professor of clinical anatomy in the Department of Anatomy and Reproductive Biology. She taught until her retirement in 2002.

During the early 1990s, she was instrumental in the transition of the traditional curriculum to the problem based learning system JABSOM uses to teach its medical students.

“She worked tirelessly as an advocate for education both within JABSOM and throughout the UH System and greatly expanded enrollments in undergraduate anatomy and physiology at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa,” said Scott Lozanoff, professor and former chair of the Department of Anatomy, Biochemistry and Physiology. “Marita was committed to faculty governance and she served on many JABSOM and UH Mānoa committees, most notably UH Faculty Senate.”

According to her brother, Robert William Nelson of Maui, Nelson received awards for all of her teaching positions prior to joining JABSOM, and kept the momentum going by receiving the Excellence in Teaching award from UH Mānoa in 1985. She also remained an emeritus professor and an active member of the UH Professional Assembly throughout her retirement.

Robert Nelson added that his sister sang in the Honolulu Symphony Chorus and also the Hawaiʻi Opera Theatre for which she sang and performed in 17 different operas. As a member of the Waiokeola Congregational Church and also at the Church of the Crossroads, she sang in both choirs and served as a moderator at both churches. Lozanoff also shared that Marita Nelson was a world traveler who enjoyed exploring new places and meeting new people.