Healing Hearts and Souls

LDS Church President and alum Russell M. Nelson donates medical papers to the U

Wendy Watson Nelson, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Russell M. Nelson, U president Taylor Randall

Medical innovator and world faith leader Russell M. Nelson BA’45 MD’47 has donated his medical papers to the University of Utah. At a ceremony last August, U President Taylor Randall HBA’90 and Senior Vice President for Health Sciences Michael Good accepted the gift of 35 volumes—including Nelson’s doctoral thesis, research publications, and surgical notes for thousands of cardiothoracic surgeries he performed over a three-decade career in medicine.

“As we appropriately allow individuals to study your records, they will see how you were inspired and remember that you were not only a great healer of people, but you’ve been a great healer of souls, and that you felt inspiration the entire time that you were performing your profession,” said Randall. “Thank you deeply for donating these volumes to the University of Utah.”

Nelson, the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, earned his medical degree from the U at the age of 22. After graduation, he went to the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, where he completed his internship and residency training in surgery. While at Minnesota, Nelson helped lead the research team that developed the heart-lung machine used to support the first-ever human open-heart surgery in 1951. In 1955, Nelson returned to Utah, where he performed the state’s first open-heart surgery.

For 17 years, Nelson was director of the U’s Thoracic Surgical Residency program. In addition to his work in Utah, he was a visiting professor in Mexico, Chile, Uruguay, and China. In 2020, Nelson received an honorary doctorate from the U for his valuable contributions to his field and his life of service. During his 30-year career, Nelson performed nearly 7,000 surgeries. 

“I am deeply grateful for the important role the University of Utah played in my education and surgical career,” Nelson said. “Wendy and I are very pleased to donate these valuable records to the University of Utah. Thank you for accepting these tangible tracks of my surgical career.”


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