The American Heart Association has presented one of its 2022 Distinguished Scientist awards to Ralph L. Sacco, M.D., M.S., FAHA, of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. The association honors as Distinguished Scientists members who have significantly advanced the understanding of cardiovascular, stroke, or brain health.
The seven awardees for 2022 were recognized during the association’s Scientific Sessions 2022, held in person in Chicago and virtually Nov. 5-7.
A renowned stroke neurologist, Dr. Sacco serves as chair of the Miller School’s Department of Neurology; the Olemberg Family Chair in Neurological Disorders; professor of neurology, public health sciences, human genetics, and neurosurgery; the executive director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute; director and multi-principal investigator of the Miami Clinical and Translational Science Institute; and senior associate dean for clinical and translational science. He is a population-based researcher in the field of cerebrovascular diseases. Dr. Sacco’s work has highlighted the difference in stroke risk related to race by studying different races and ethnicities within the same geographical area. This work helped create more targeted stroke prevention programs.
"It's an honor to receive this prestigious recognition and join prior neurologist colleagues who have been added to the ranks of the AHA’s distinguished scientists," said Dr. Sacco, whose research helped realize the impact of modifiable behaviors, such as alcohol consumption and physical activity, on stroke risk.
"The AHA has continued support of multidisciplinary research, especially among diverse underrepresented populations, and has been integral to advancements in overall brain health, stroke and cardiovascular disease prevention, and treatment,” said Dr. Sacco. “The AHA has also made it a strategic priority to advance health equity."
‘Lasting Impact’ of Work
Dr. Sacco is the founder and executive director of the Florida Stroke Registry, which consists of 167 Florida stroke centers working to improve the quality of stroke care, reduce stroke disparities related to race, ethnicity, sex, and region, and drive a complete system of stroke care in Florida. He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and served as president of the American Academy of Neurology from 2017 to 2019.
“Dr. Sacco’s work has improved the quality of care for stroke patients by addressing disparities within racial and ethnic groups,” said AHA President Michelle A. Albert, M.D., M.P.H., FAHA. “His work leaves a lasting impact in medicine by providing increased understanding of the impacts race, diabetes, hypertension, diet, physical activity, and obesity can have on stroke risks.”
Dr. Sacco earned a bachelor’s degree from the Cornell University College of Engineering, a Doctor of Medicine from Boston University Chobaian & Avedisian School of Medicine, and a master’s in epidemiology from the Columbia University School of Public Health. He completed a neurology residency at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York and two post-doctoral fellowships in neurology and in vascular neurology at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Dr. Sacco has published more than 750 peer-reviewed articles. He serves on the editorial boards of Cerebrovascular Disease, Nature Clinical Practice Neurology, Neuroepidemiology, and Acta Clinica Croatica, and is the editor-in-chief of the AHA’s peer-reviewed scientific journal Stroke.
Dr. Sacco was previously recognized by the association with the 2015 Gold Heart Award, the 2011 Distinguished National Leadership Award, and the 2006 William Feinberg Award. He also served as president of the association in 2010-2011.
The American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2022 is a premier global exchange of the latest scientific advancements, research, and evidence-based clinical practice updates in cardiovascular science. The three-day meeting featured more than 500 sessions focused on breakthrough cardiovascular basic, clinical, and population science updates. Thousands of leading physicians, scientists, cardiologists, advanced practice nurses, and allied health care professionals from around the world convened virtually to participate in presentations, discussions, and curricula that can shape the future of cardiovascular science and medicine, including prevention and quality improvement.