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V. A. Nelson was born in Graceville, Minnesota. He graduated from Edina (Minnesota) High School in 1961. He earned his B.A. from the University of Minnesota in 1965 and his M.D. from the Medical College of Wisconsin in 1969. His wife, Debbie, and he were married during his senior year of medical school. They have three children and four grandchildren. He took further training at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, California (Stanford University), Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii (University of Hawaii), McLaren Regional Medical Center in Flint, Michigan (Michigan State University), and at the U.S. Army Aero-medical Center in Ft. Rucker, Alabama.
He served as a flight surgeon on army active duty from 1973-1975. In January of 1974 he proposed, to the army, an ejection system for helicopters using explosive bolts to release the rotor blades before timed upward crew ejection. The Russians now have it. In 1975, he entered private medical practice in Anoka, Minnesota. In 1978, he moved to Houston, Texas where he has been the Clinical Director of a University of Texas residency program, and the medical director of a hospital clinic.
In May of 2004, he was assigned by the University of Texas Medical Branch to work in the Flight Analog Research Unit and in the Human Test Subject Facility at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. There, he supported work on countermeasures to the pathophysiologic effects of prolonged space-travel.
In July of 2009, he contracted to work in the Soldier Readiness Center at Ft. Hood, Texas. He was present during the November fifth shooting and was one of the first responders to render medical care to the victims.