Melanie Nukala, MD

Meet Melanie Nukala, MD, from vascular surgery.

Talk about your background and education.

I grew up in Maryville, Illinois. I went to Saint Louis University for undergrad and then to the American University of Antigua in the Caribbean for medical school. I did my general surgery residency in Youngstown, Ohio, and my vascular surgery fellowship at Saint Louis University. My family and my husband’s family are from here so it’s nice to be able to end up back here where we’re from.

Why did you choose to go into medicine?

My mom tells me all the time that from the minute I could talk I always said I was going to be a doctor. My parents aren’t physicians so they never pushed me towards it. I just always knew that was what I wanted to be and it never changed. When I was a senior in high school, I got to be part of a program called the Illinois Governmental Internship Program. It’s a neat program where you get to move to Springfield, Illinois, and work in places you’d potentially like to be in. I was able to work with a cardiothoracic surgeon there, and that’s when I knew I wanted to do surgery. I was 17 years old when I got that opportunity. 

When did you decide to go into vascular surgery?

We did a lot of vascular surgery in my residency so you knew if you really liked it or really didn’t like it. Vascular surgery gives you a lot of options for endovascular as well as open procedures…sometimes kind of a hybrid of both. With vascular surgery, you get to work on arteries, veins, and operate on several different areas of the body from the neck to the abdomen to the legs/arms.

What does a vascular surgeon do?

Veins are a smaller portion of what we do actually. We deal with a lot of peripheral arterial disease. Patients that have blockages in their legs and have trouble walking or trouble healing wounds on their feet, we can open up arteries or build bypasses in their legs to help get better blood flow down to their feet. We deal a lot with abdominal aortic or thoracic aneurysms, and we can fix those endovascularly with stents or through open surgery. For patients that have had strokes and have blockages in the carotid arteries, we have several different options for revascularization. For dialysis access, we create fistulas, put in grafts, and maintain them as well.

What do you enjoy most about what you do?

I enjoy taking care of patients and their families. We always say when a vascular patient becomes your patient that they’re your patient forever. They’ll come back and see you constantly, I really enjoy taking care of them. Also, you go from having a patient that’s having severe pain in their leg that’s waking them from sleep at night, and you’re able to do a procedure and they’re so much happier and more comfortable and they’re able to walk around again when they weren’t before. Or you’re able to fix somebody’s aneurysm that they knew they had and were very worried about. It’s just very gratifying to be able to help people like that.