Ralph L. Sacco, MD, MS, FAAN, FAHA, Past President of AAN, Has Died


Sacco, who also served as president of the American Heart Association/ American Stroke Association, succumbed to a brain tumor on January 17, 2023.

Ralph L. Sacco, MD

Ralph L. Sacco, MD, MS, FAAN, FAHA, had died at the age of 65 from a glioblastoma brain tumor.

Ralph L. Sacco, MD, MS, FAAN, FAHA, past president of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), has died. Sacco, who was 65, succumbed to glioblastoma on January 17, 2023 at his home on Long Island, New York.

An immeasurable loss for the medical community at large, Sacco was the only person to ever lead both the AAN (2017-2019) and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA; 2010-2011), and the first neurologist to serve as president of the AHA/ASA. At the time of his passing, Sacco was a professor of neurology, public health sciences, human genetics, and neurosurgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and the Olemberg Family Chair in Neurological Disorders.

Sacco began his career in neurology at Columbia Presbyterian in New York, eventually rising to the role of professor of neurology, chief of Stroke and Critical Care Division at the Neurological Institute at Columbia/New York-Presbyterian, and associate chairman at Columbia University before moving to Miami in 2007, where he assumed the roles of senior associate dean for clinical and translational science; executive director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute; and chief of the neurology service at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Sacco, who has published more than 1000 peer-reviewed articles, was a pioneer in stroke epidemiology, likely inspired by his early analyses of data from the Framingham Study while still in medical school. Sacco went on to be the founding principal investigator of the ongoing Northern Manhattan Study, which examines stroke risk factors among a multi-ethnic population of underserved Black and Hispanic individuals, and once in Miami, he launched the Florida-Puerto Rico Collaboration to Reduce Stroke Disparities.

Well-recognized for his expertise and accomplishments, Sacco was the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions, including but not limited to the AAN Wartenberg Lecture, AHA Feinberg Award of Excellence in Clinical Stroke, the WSO Global Stroke Leadership Award, AHA Gold Heart Award, and the NINDS Javits Award in neuroscience.

During his time leading the AAN, Sacco was a proponent of academic neurology, including initiatives to boost the neurology workforce through an expansion of focus beyond diagnosis and treatment of disease to preventative, interventional, and regenerative care.

Born and raised on the Jersey Shore, Sacco gravitated to the coasts, where he persued several passion projects in architectural and interior design. He enjoyed abstract art and mid-century modern style, and these tastes could be seen in his impressive home renovation projects.

The team at NeurologyLive extends their sincere condolences to Dr. Sacco's family, friends, and colleagues.

For more on Dr. Sacco's life, read the In Memorium tribute co-published in Neurology, Circulation, and Stroke.

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