Loren Nelson and Nancy St. Clair
“Without my time in Iowa City, my life would have been so different.” - Loren Nelson
During his surgical residency at the University of Utah, Loren Nelson (1970 B.S., 1976 M.D.) had many memorable moments while completing a short summer rotation at a 12-bed hospital in Yellowstone National Park.
“With no medical care within two hours of the park and 50,000 people visiting on a daily basis, we would get a little bit of everything—hypothermia, buffalo goring, bear mauling, cliff-related injuries, and even an airplane crash,” said Loren. “It’s also where I met my wife, Nancy, who was the head nurse in the operating room. It really was an exciting and memorable couple of weeks.”
After meeting at this small, rural hospital more than 30 years ago, Loren Nelson and Nancy St. Clair have spent their lives together—working and teaching in the health-care field, as well as traveling the world. “I followed in my mother’s footsteps,” said Nancy, who graduated from Cumberland School of Nursing in Maryland and later received a bachelor’s degree from St. Thomas University. “After graduating, I worked in the operating room, and I ended up spending the rest of my professional life there.”
Ever since his childhood in Slater, Iowa, Loren has had a fascination for the sciences, specifically, biology. Starting off with hopes of going to medical school, Loren ended up earning a biology education degree from the UI College of Education. Graduating in the midst of the Vietnam War, Loren joined the Army Reserve and spent six months in active duty, which prevented him from starting his teaching career.
“I ended up getting a job that totally changed my life, which was working in the cardiovascular research lab at the University of Iowa’s College of Medicine,” said Loren. “I was eventually promoted to research assistant where I could perform independent research and work with the cardiologist team called MASH—comprised of Allyn Mark, Francois Abboud, Phillip Schmid, and Donald Heistad. After another year of research, the MASH team convinced me to pursue medical school. That changed my life, and I’ve been forever grateful.”
After completing medical school in 1976 at the UI and his residency at the University of Utah in 1981, Loren traveled the world as a surgical intensivist/trauma surgeon and professor. Whether it was helping start an electronic ICU program at Baptist Health South Florida in Miami, serving on the executive committee and as president for the Society of Critical Care Medicine, or teaching at institutions such as Vanderbilt University or the University of Central Florida’s new medical school, he said Iowa prepared him well.
“Very few places give you the flexibility that Iowa gave me, and very few university hospitals are big enough to have high-quality people and the depth of faculty in so many areas,” said Loren. “My preparation was superb because I was able to complete rotations in numerous intensive care specialties. The University of Iowa couldn’t have been any better.”
It’s why Loren and Nancy, who now live in Jackson, Wyoming, have decided to give back to Iowa, specifically, the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. The couple—Presidents Club members at the UI—created the Loren D. Nelson and Nancy R. St. Clair Scholarship Fund through a bequest, which will support medical students who show financial need.
“Without my time in Iowa City, my life would have been so different,” said Loren. “I was fortunate that I received scholarships and was able to work part time to pay the $350 tuition per semester for medical school. I hope our support will help students who want to go to medical school accumulate less debt.”
“A lot of students are discouraged to attend medical school—as well as nursing school—based on the high price of an education,” said Nancy. “We’d hate for the next generation of medical professionals to be frustrated and not pursue their dreams just because they’re worried about finances.”