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Nelson family
Dr. Russell M. Nelson during an operation.

SALT LAKE CITY — President Russell M. Nelson performed nearly 7,000 operations as a heart surgeon before he set down his scalpel to become an apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Now Utah is going to award the LDS Church president with a lifetime achievement medal for a career spent on the cutting edge of medical innovation.

President Nelson will receive the award on June 6 at an event honoring him and the three other winners of the 2018 Governor's Medals for Science and Technology, according to a joint news release issued by Gov. Gary Herbert and the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative.

President Nelson performed Utah's first open-heart surgery — the first west of the Mississippi — in 1955. By then he'd already spent more than five years as part of a research team that pioneered the heart bypass machine and performed the first open-heart surgery that employed extracorporeal (outside of the body) circulation.

He published more than 70 peer-reviewed scientific papers and lectured and taught internationally before he became an apostle and eventually the 17th president of the church.

Herbert will present the medals to the winners during the lunchtime plenary session of the Utah Technology Innovation Summit on June 6 at the Salt Lake Marriott Downtown at City Creek. Tickets to the event may be purchased at utahinnovationsummit.org. Tables are also available for purchase by contacting Justin Berry at jberry@utah.gov or (801) 538-8884.

The medal for academic research will go to University of Utah chemistry professor Dana Carroll; Tyson Grover, science curriculum advisor at the Davis School District, elementary STEM professor at Weber State University, and online science endorsement course developer for the Utah State Board of Education; and George Hansen, chief technology officer and co-founder of Conductive Composites.

"These medal recipients are defined by their tireless passion and service to promoting science, technology and innovation here in Utah," Herbert said. "These individuals' contributions in scientific advancement and education make a significant impact in driving Utah's economy and quality of life forward. Their efforts will benefit Utah for years to come."

The awards are presented in partnership by USTAR — the state's technology-based economic development agency — and the Governor's Office of Economic Development.

"These winners are true leaders in science and technology that have played a prominent role in Utah's thriving innovation ecosystem," USTAR executive director Ivy Estabrooke said. "We look forward to celebrating this year's winners and their achievements at the Utah Technology Innovation Summit."

Carroll is a pioneer in precise genome engineering, which allows scientists to make specific changes in the genomic DNA of any organism. Last year, he was elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

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Grover will be honored for his commitment to promoting science and technology education in Utah. He has been instrumental in writing open-source, STEM-focused online curriculum resources for teachers that align with the state's Science with Engineering Education (SEEd) standards that were adopted in 2015.

Hansen and Conductive Composites have brought key science and technology jobs to Wasatch and Emery counties. His business has created $30 million in wages and benefits, and purchased $15 million in local goods, services, and contractors in rural Utah, according to the USTAR release.

The event's plenary sessions will be live-streamed on DeseretNews.com.