Dr. Orville F. Nielsen was a member of the first four-year class at the University of Utah Medical School. He passed away on April 9 of this year. In his will, he very generously left 10% (about $250,000) of his estate to the School of Medicine. The executors of his will, his two nephews, John and Bob Nielsen, felt their uncle would be pleased to use the money to establish a Fellow’s Award in his name in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology. In the 1950’s Dr. Nielsen received additional training in gastroenterology, becoming the first board certified gastroenterologist in the Navy and started the first Navy GI training program.
The School of Medicine is extremely grateful for this gift and for making this award in the Division of Gastroenterology a reality.
Brief Autobiography of Orville Felt Nielsen
I was born on May 8,1916. My parents were Julia Felt Nielsen and Ernest Nielsen. My only brother was twelve years older than I was, his name was Elmer. When I was six years old Elmer was called on a mission. To help supplement the farm income dad took a job in Ogden at the W.F. Jensen Candy factory. Due to the difficulty traveling to Ogden in the winter we moved to Ogden for the two winters of Elmer's mission. We lived in different locations each winter. Accordingly, I attended three different schools during my first two years, the school in Huntsville, the Dee and Loren Fan Schools in Ogden.
The summer Elmer returned from his mission he and his friend Milton Taylor sold knitting goods in the mid-west. He then attended Weber College where he became student body President He then went to Salt Lake City and the U of U and you know the rest of the story.
I attended grade school in Huntsville through ninth grade. Then I went to high school in Ogden at Weber High school. While there I was voted to be the business manager of the senior class. Then I attended Weber College for one year before going on a mission to Denmark in 1935.
In Denmark I served in the cities of Silkeborg, Aalborg, Aarhus, and Copenhagen. During the summer of 1937 Elmer came to Denmark and I was given permission to spend six week with him touring Europe, which was a very interesting and pleasant summer. You are aware of the counties we visited. In 1938 upon my discharge I traveled through northern Germany, Holland, and part of England where I caught the ship for home.
That fall I attended Weber College for my second year where I was business manager for the school paper. Upon graduation from Weber I attended the U of U graduating in 1941. My major was bacteriology. In September 19411 started medical school at the University of Utah. I was in the first class of the medical school. In December 1941 Pearl Harbor occurred. In January 1942 representatives from the Army and Navy came to all the medical schools to sign up students so they wouldn't be drafted. I passed the navy physical and finished medical school as a cadet. We went year round and graduated in three years. We were then allowed a nine-month internship, which I served at the Graduate Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
I then received orders to the Marine Corps. I was at Camp Pendleton in basic training when the bomb was dropped ending the war. My group of doctors was then sent to Guam where we lived in tents. After a few weeks there we received orders. Several of my group was sent to China and the rest of us to the occupation of Japan. The Marines occupied the southern island Kyushu. Our main task was finding and destroying weapons of warfare. The powder was destroyed by burning and the weapons sunk at sea.
I returned from Japan in July and was discharged from the Navy active duty but kept in the reserves. Training in internal medicine was obtained at LDS Hospital, University of Pennsylvania Graduate School and the VAMTG in Memphis Tennessee. We enjoyed living in Philadelphia and Memphis.
Upon my return from Japan, Emily was visiting her Aunt Marion and Elmer introduced us. This became serious - we corresponded all winter, I visited her in April and formalized our engagement. We were married in Philadelphia at the LDS Church on September 18, 1947.
We then moved to Provo where I started practice in medicine in the same office as Dr. Ruper. This was 1950. In 1952 I was recalled to active duty with the Navy (all of us who had served less than 24 months active duty in WWII were recalled - I had only served about 14-15 months.) I was stationed in Boston for two years at the Naval Hospital and the Navy Yard. We also enjoyed living in Boston.
Keith Pearson told Elmer they needed another internist at the Kennecott Copper Clinic. This was in the 1st National Bank Building. So I came to Salt Lake to work there but they closed the clinic a few months later. After practicing at the Bryner Clinic and on my own I was then recalled to active duty in the Navy. I was then stationed at the Naval Hospital in Corona California - a beautiful situation. They Navy closed this Hospital within the next year and I was transferred to the Naval Hospital at Camp Pendleton.
While at Camp Pendleton a doctor from the Naval Bureau of Medicine and Surgery visited. He asked if I was interested in obtaining more training in gastroenterology - which I was. Then I was transferred to the Graduate Hospital, Philadelphia for a year course under Dr. Bochus. Upon completion of this I was ordered to the Naval Hospital of Philadelphia. I became the first Board Certified gastroenterologist in the Navy. The Philadelphia Naval Hospital had about 1200 beds. I had two 30-bed wards for gastroenterology. I started the first training program for gastroenterology in the Navy.
In 1966 I was ordered to the Hospital Ship the USS Sanctuary where I was the Executive Officer and Chief of Medicine of the Hospital. After about a year on the ship I was transferred to the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery in Washington. Emily and I bought a nice home in Arlington, Virginia. In 1969 I was transferred to the Naval Hospital in Newport, Rhode Island where I was the executive officer and Chief of Medicine. In October of1972 I retired from the Navy and moved to Binghamton, New York. Here I practiced gastroenterology from 1973 until I retired in 1975.
In Binghamton, I served on various boards and committees such as Rotary, The University, the Orchestra and a nursing home and tried to keep up Emily's old family home, which her grandfather bought in 1905.
Other Giving Stories
Robert H. Ballard and Dorothy Cannon Ballard Endowed Scholarship
More Ways to Make a Difference
Visit Our Giving Page to Read More About Ways You Can Make a Contribution to the School of Medicine
If you are interested in establishing a medical scholarship by making a five-year pledge to the School of Medicine for a specific student or you have other questions about making a contribution please contact Kristin Wann Gorang, (801) 585-3818, Kristin.firstname.lastname@example.org in the School of Medicine Alumni Relations office.