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SLU’s Deborah Horton Honored for Work in Community Care by St. Louis Magazine

by Bridjes O'Neil on 04/23/2021
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Bridjes O'Neil
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Finalists and winners of St. Louis Magazine’s 2021 Excellence in Nursing awards were honored in a virtual celebration on Thursday, April 22. Deborah Horton, assistant professor in SLU’s Trudy Busch Valentine School of Nursing and a member of SLU’s COVID-19 Vaccination Team, won in the Community Care/Ambulatory category. 

Danny Willis, DNS, dean of SLU’s School of Nursing, said Horton stood out as the front-runner and winner in her category.

Her steadfast and excellent nursing service for community care stems from her love of community engagement, public health, and helping people with what is important in their daily lives. She earned this very well-deserved professional recognition!

Danny Willis, DNS, dean of SLU’s School of Nursing.


Deborah Horton, assistant professor in SLU’s Trudy Busch Valentine School of Nursing, was the winner in the Community Care/Ambulatory category at the 2021 Excellence in Nursing Awards.

A selection committee comprised of six judges from outside the St. Louis area narrowed the field to 60 finalists in 18 categories. Horton was one of four full-time or adjunct faculty from the Valentine School of Nursing and a SLUCare cardiology clinical nurse named as finalists. 

Horton works closely with Terri Rebmann, Ph.D., special assistant to the President, to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on SLU’s campus. She was instrumental in mobilizing Saint Louis University’s first large-scale COVID-19 vaccination clinic in March.

St. Louis Magazine Editor-in-Chief and Publisher Jarrett Medlin said of the finalists during the virtual awards ceremony: “Perhaps no time has felt as poignant as now. Over the past year, you have gone to great lengths working around the clock and putting your lives on the line to help others in profound ways.” 

For Horton that includes having a profound impact on the next generation of nurses.

“One of my former students recently told me, ‘You sparked a huge fire in me and made me better prepared for what the world is now facing,’” Horton told St. Louis Magazine.

The 2021 Excellence in Nursing honorees are:

Cynthia Rubbelke

Cynthia Rubbelke was honored in the Educator of the Year category. A SLU nurse has won that award 10 times in the past 11 years. Rubbelke was named a 2015 Elsevier Leading Stars in Education (ELSIE) honoree in the Simulation category.

Denise Cote-Arsenault, Ph.D.

Denise Cote-Arsenault, Ph.D., was honored in the Women’s Health category. Cote-Arsenault, the Hemak Endowed Professor of Maternal Child Nursing, is an internationally-recognized expert in pregnancy loss. She was named a Fulbright Scholar in 2019. Her research also focuses on pregnancy, breastfeeding/lactation, early parenting, theory, and perinatal palliative care.

Michelle Mendonsa

Michelle Mendonsa was honored in the Intensive Care category. Mendosa is an adjunct faculty teaching clinical public health for SLU's undergraduate nursing program. She is also a nurse at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

Sarah Johnson

Sarah Johnson was honored in the Medical-Surgical Nursing category. Johnson is a SLUCare cardiology clinical nurse in the C4 department. SLUCare Cardiovascular Services is headquartered at University Tower in Richmond Heights and provides complete cardiovascular care for patients. It is the only cardiovascular practice in the St. Louis metro area to earn patient-centered specialty practice recognition from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA).

In 2018, all of the finalists for the Excellence in Nursing Educator of the Year award were SLU faculty. Niche recently ranked the Valentine School of Nursing as the No. 8 best college in the country for nursing.

Winning nurses will be profiled in the magazine’s May issue coinciding with Nurses Week. Read more about current and past recipients from 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, and 2016.

About Trudy Busch Valentine School of Nursing

Founded in 1928, the Trudy Busch Valentine School of Nursing at Saint Louis University has achieved a national reputation for its innovative and pioneering programs. Offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral nursing programs, its faculty members are nationally recognized for their teaching, research and clinical expertise.

About SLUCare Physician Group

SLUCare Physician Group is the academic medical practice of Saint Louis University, with more than 500 health care providers and 1,200 staff members in hospitals and medical offices throughout the St. Louis region. SLUCare physicians are among the most highly trained in their fields – more than 50 specialties in all – and are national and international experts, renowned for research and innovations in medicine. For more information, visit us at