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Saint Louis University, SLUCare Nurses Named St. Louis Magazine’s 2021 Excellence in Nursing Finalists

by Bridjes O'Neil on 03/08/2021
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Bridjes O'Neil
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Four full-time or adjunct faculty from the Trudy Busch Valentine School of Nursing and a SLUCare cardiology clinical nurse have been named finalists for the 2021 Excellence in Nursing awards. St. Louis Magazine will name the winners during a virtual ceremony on Thursday, April 22. 


Trudy Busch Valentine School of Nursing 

Danny Willis, DNS, dean of SLU’s Trudy Busch Valentine School of Nursing, said it’s a testament to the school’s excellent reputation. 

“We provide students with a superb values-based scientific professional nursing education. Our faculty are committed leaders in nursing education, practice and research as exemplified by the lineup of 2021 SLU honorees,” Willis said. 

The 2021 Excellence in Nursing honorees are:

Cynthia Rubbelke

Cynthia Rubbelke is 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. 

Deborah Horton

Deborah Horton is honored in the Community Care/Ambulatory category. 

Horton works closely with Terri Rebmann, Ph.D., special assistant to the President, to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus. Horton also helped spearhead SLU’s Student Flu Shots 2020 Initiative last fall. 

Denise Cote-Arsenault, Ph.D.

Denise Cote-Arsenault, Ph.D., is 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 is honored in the Intensive Care category.

She is an adjunct faculty teaching clinical public health for SLU's undergraduate nursing program. Mendonsa is also a nurse at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. 

Sarah Johnson

Sarah Johnson is 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).

Saint Louis University has a long legacy of leadership in nursing education. In 2018, all of the finalists for the Excellence in Nursing Educator of the Year award were SLU faculty. 

A team of six judges from outside the St. Louis area narrowed the field to 60 finalists in 18 categories. 

Read more about past recipients from 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, and 2016.

View Full List of Nominees

The winners of the 12th annual St. Louis Magazine’s Excellence in Nursing award will be honored in a virtual celebration on Thursday, April 22, and winning nurses are profiled in the magazine’s May issue.

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