Saha Aortic Center presents awards recognizing clinical service, education, and research

The Saha Aortic Center presented awards recognizing excellence in clinical service, research, and education at the University of Kentucky as it pertains to aortic health and treatment.

The Saha Aortic Center Award in Clinical Care

Melissa L. Jones, RN, BSN, Nursing Cardiothoracic Surgery Coordinator, was presented the clinical care award in recognition of her selfless dedication to patient care. Multiple providers and patients at UK HealthCare commend Jones for her careful attention to detail to ensure the best possible treatment for aortic disease. “She always puts her patients first, responding quickly to their needs and she is an indispensable member of the team that provides care for patients with complex aortic disease,” noted Dr. Mary Sheppard, a co-director of the Aortic Center.

“Melissa is awesome,” added Dr. Michael Sekela, Cardiothoracic Surgery Division Chief, in support of her award. “She and I have worked together for 25 years. She has no agenda other than taking care of patients and anyone else that she perceives needs help. We preach it and our people practice it.”

Jonathan Wenk, PhD

The Saha Aortic Center Award in Research

Jonathan Wenk, Ph.D., Gill Associate Professor with a joint appointment in the Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Surgery, is recognized for his innovative contributions to the field of aortic research. Dr. Wenk leads a team to create a computer simulation that will help predict the progression of type B aortic dissection in patients. The work has the potential to help surgeons know which patients may stabilize without need for surgery from those who would benefit from early surgical repair. 




Roberto Aru, MD

The Saha Aortic Center Award in Education

Roberto G. Aru, MD, one of the chief residents in General Surgery, has made significant contributions to the field of aortic education. Medical students, fellow residents, and faculty have praised his skills as an educator in aortic and vascular disease. He has many publications on aortic disease and treatment, contributing knowledge to the entire medical community.

The Saha Aortic Center was established in April 2021 through a gift from the Saha Foundation. Its primary mission is to promote research and education to advance clinical care for disease of the aorta. Housed in the University of Kentucky’s Biomedical Biological Science Research Building (BBSRB), the center’s co-directors include Alan Daugherty, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Physiology and director of the Saha Cardiovascular Research Center; David Minion, MD, program director and Professor of Vascular Surgery; and Mary B. Sheppard, MD, Assistant Professor of Family and Community Medicine.