New AAN, AHA Scholarship Program Honors Ralph Sacco, MD

In honor of the late Ralph L Sacco, MD, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) and the American Heart Association (AHA) are jointly funding a brain health scholarship program to support early career trainees focused on brain health.

The Ralph L. Sacco Scholarships in Brain Health, also known as the Sacco Scholars program, are made possible by a generous bequest to the AAN and AHA from Sacco ― the only neurologist to have served as president of both the AAN and the AHA.

Sacco passed away on January 17, 2023, at the age of 65, from a brain tumor, as reported by | Medscape Cardiology.

“It is fitting that Dr Sacco planned to continue to support trainees through his generous bequest,” Mitchell S. V. Elkind, MD, AHA chief clinical science officer, said in a news release announcing the brain health scholarships.

“He was a mentor to me and so many other neurologists during his career. A pioneer in the field, his legacy will live on through these Sacco Scholars, not only through their research but also through the scientific ripples they leave over the course of their careers, just as he did,” said Elkind.

The AHA is “honored to collaborate with the AAN in support of these brain health scholarships in his memory,” Elkind added.

“Dr Sacco dedicated his career to stroke prevention and the betterment of brain health,” Orly Avitzur, MD, MBA, AAN immediate past president, said in the news release.

“His vision was for the American Academy of Neurology and the American Heart Association to work together, as he believed we could achieve new heights by joining forces. The Sacco Scholars program will honor his legacy by providing funding to those who share his vision for improving brain health for all,” Avitzur said.

Dedicated to Improving Stroke Care

The Sacco Scholars program will award two $150,000 scholarships annually, beginning in 2024, to early career trainees pursuing a 2-year research or public health service project focused on the prevention of brain disease and/or maintenance of brain health.

The long-term goal of the scholarship program is to offer opportunities to eligible trainees at various stages of their careers.

Applications for the inaugural Ralph L. Sacco Scholarship in Brain Health will open in January 2024. The recipients will be announced in July 2024.

Sacco was chair of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Department of Neurology; the Olemberg Family Chair in Neurological Disorders; professor of neurology, public health sciences, human genetics, and neurosurgery; 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.

Sacco was a population-based researcher in the field of cerebrovascular diseases.

As founder of the Northern Manhattan Study, he paved the way for examining the differences in stroke risk related to race, ethnicity, sex, and neighborhood and for realizing the impact of modifiable lifestyle behaviors, such as alcohol consumption and physical activity, on stroke risk.

Sacco’s work led to more targeted stroke prevention programs and improvements in stroke research.

Sacco also founded and served as executive director of the Florida Stroke Registry, which consists of 167 Florida stroke centers. He was a member of the National Academy of Medicine.

The new Sacco Scholars research program was announced during the AAN’s Brain Health Summit on September 21, 2023, in Washington, DC.

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