Vickers grew up in Huntsville and Tuscaloosa. He earned his undergraduate and medical degrees at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and remained there for his surgical residency. He joined the faculty at UAB in 1994 and conducted research funded by the National Institutes of Health. He was a senior scientist at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center and an associate scientist at the UAB Gene Therapy Center. He served as director of gastrointestinal surgery from 2000 to 2006, then left to become chair of the surgery department at the University of Minnesota's medical school.
- Ranaivo, Yann (August 15, 2013) "Who is Selwyn Vickers? Meet UAB's new medical school dean." Birmingham Business Journal