Biomedical Engineering Professor Receives International Award

Dr. Hanna Jensen
Photo by University Relations

Dr. Hanna Jensen

On Friday, Aug. 19, Dr. Hanna Jensen, research assistant professor of biomedical engineering, received the 2016 Ingegerd and Viking Olov Björk Scholarship for Thoracic and Cardiovascular Research, the highest honor from the Scandinavian Association for Thoracic Surgery. The award is named after a Swedish cardiovascular surgeon, who amongst many achievements was a pioneer in developing cardiopulmonary bypass and the first prosthetic heart valve. The ceremony banquet took place among volcanos, glaciers and geysers, in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland.  

The Scandinavian Association for Thoracic Surgery emphasized that Jensen is receiving the award "for her integration of engineering-style problem solving and technology development in translational cardiothoracic research."

Jensen's passion for cross-disciplinary collaboration played a large role in her decision to accept a position with the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the U of A, where she currently collaborates with her husband, associate professor Morten Jensen, in the Cardiovascular Biomechanics Laboratory.

"Over the past year, Hanna has been instrumental in the cardiovascular research and teaching activities at the biomedical engineering department," said Raj Rao, head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering. "Her clinical background and research expertise are providing our students a unique experience of the translational aspects of biomedical engineering training that prepare them for different careers in industry or academia. She is also turning out to be a great advocate for bringing the attention of clinicians in Arkansas to the opportunities that they have in working with the biomedical engineering department."

Dr. Hanna Jensen accepting the Ingegerd and Viking Olov Björk Award for Thoracic and Cardiovascular Research at the annual meeting of the Scandinavian Association of Thoracic Surgery. Photo by Morten Jensen.

Jensen's Ph.D. adviser, Tatu Juvonen, chief of cardiac surgery at the Heart and Lung Center of Helsinki University Hospital in Finland, described why he put her name forward for this scholarship: "Hanna's strength has always been her versatility and her ability to bring different personalities and professionals together. She is never afraid to step outside of her comfort zone to advance her science. She has consistently and sustainably broken down barriers of gender, those of different medical specialties as well as those between professions. This has resulted in a scientist who moves fluidly between cell cultures, machine shops, clinics and operating rooms."

Jensen has been an active researcher since she attended medical school, receiving an M.D. in 2007 and a Ph.D. in 2008 from the University of Oulu in her native Finland. Her research interests seek to optimize cardiovascular disease treatment from a practical standpoint. Her doctoral research focused on brain protection during cardiac surgery with an experimental approach, a theme she continued after her clinical rotations as a postdoctoral researcher at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, one of the largest pediatric cardiac centers in Europe. Prior to joining the U of A in 2015, Jensen conducted research in transcatheter aortic valve replacement at the Structural Heart and Valve Center of Emory University in Atlanta.

Dr. Jensen addressing the conference in her acceptance speech at the Harpa Conference Center in Reykjavik, Iceland. Photo by Morten Jensen.

Elizabeth DeMeo, media specialist
Biomedical Engineering


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