SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah School of Medicine honored President Russell M. Nelson, president of the LDS Church, Friday for his many years as a practicing heart surgeon.
At a dinner on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, university President Ruth V. Watkins honored President Nelson’s more than three decades as a cardiothoracic heart surgeon, while also establishing the Dr. Russell M. Nelson and Dantzel W. Nelson Presidential Endowed Chair in Cardiothoracic Surgery.
“President Nelson, you have touched the hearts — literally the hearts — and souls and minds of people,” Watkins said. “We’re so delighted to be able to establish this tribute to you and Dantzel.”
Watkins added that the endowed chair “will honor President Nelson’s role as an educator for the future, influencing generations of scholars and students,” and will help attract talented faculty to the university.
Craig H. Selzman, a heart surgery professor at the University of Utah since 2008, was named the first recipient of the endowed chair. Selzman shared with those in attendance that the department will “strive every single day to live up to the path” that President Nelson “laid before us.”
“Forever moving forward, the values and principles of Dr. Nelson will be ingrained in all of those that join our division, that live in our division, work for our department and work for our university,” Selzman said.
As an alumnus of the university, President Nelson performed the first open-heart surgery in Utah in 1955. He was a pioneering heart surgeon in Utah and helped create the heart and lung machine used to perform many surgeries.
Prior to his full-time call to serve as an apostle in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1984, President Nelson was a research professor of surgery and director of Thoracic Surgery Residency at the University of Utah. He was also chairman of the Division of Thoracic Surgery at LDS Hospital.
“Now that we look to the future, I am confident that the continuing work and research at the University of Utah will bring credit to this great institution,” President Nelson said. “I want you to know that I’ll be praying for you.”