Russell M. Nelson, M.D., Ph.D. is an internationally renowned surgeon and medical researcher whose groundbreaking work continues to play a vital role in modern cardiac surgery practices. In 1951, Dr. Nelson was a member of the research team that performed the first open heart surgery employing extracorporeal (outside of the body) circulation, developing the first modern heart-lung bypass machine in the process. In 1955, he performed the first open-heart surgery in the state of Utah — and the first west of the Mississippi — and went on to perform more than 7,000 surgeries throughout his career.
Over his medical career, he served as a leader in thoracic and cardiovascular surgery, serving as the director of the University of Utah Thoracic Surgery Program, president of the Utah State Medical Association, chair of the Division of Thoracic Surgery at LDS Hospital, president of the Society for Vascular Surgery, and director of the American Board of Thoracic Surgery.
Dr. Nelson is an author of numerous medical publications, and lectured and taught around the United States and world prior to being called to serve as a fulltime General Authority in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1984. He currently serves as the 17th president of the Church.
In addition to the inaugural Lifetime Achievement for the Governor’s Medal in Science and Technology, Dr. Nelson has received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Utah, the Heart of Gold Award from the American Heart Association, a citation for International Service from the American Heart Association, and the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement. He has also been awarded honorary professorships from three universities in the People’s Republic of China.