Updated on January 19, 2023

DALLAS, January 17, 2023 – The volunteers and staff of the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association are deeply saddened by the passing of Ralph L. Sacco, M.D., M.S., FAHA, FAAN, this morning, January 17, 2023, from an aggressive brain tumor. On behalf of the Association and its vast global network of more than 40 million volunteers and supporters, we extend our heartfelt condolences to Dr. Sacco’s spouse Scott Dutcher, family and loved ones, and the many patients, colleagues and friends who were fortunate to experience his exceptional love for and service to humanity.

“Ralph was one of a kind. His leadership was unparalleled, and his warm, generous heart and care transcended his research and clinic to every person fortunate to meet him and likely become a friend,” said American Heart Association and American Stroke Association Chief Executive Officer Nancy Brown. “The Association is forever grateful that he chose to share his time and extraordinary talents with us, and we will continue to honor his memory through the work we do to champion health equity and brain health resulting in longer, healthier lives for all people.”

Dr. Sacco was the first neurologist to serve as president of the American Heart Association in 2010-2011, and he continued actively serving the organization until he stepped down last month as editor-in-chief of the Association’s scientific journal Stroke. His valued leadership efforts with the Association have spanned nearly three decades, particularly his vision that helped to shape the first 25 years of the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, and will have a lasting impact. Dr. Sacco has been recognized with numerous accolades for his exemplary service, including, most recently, he was named a 2022 Distinguished Scientist and previously received the 2015 Gold Heart Award, the 2011 Distinguished National Leadership Award and the 2006 William Feinberg Award.

Together with his colleagues throughout the scientific research and medical community around the world including those at the American Academy of Neurology where he also served as president (2017-2019), we mourn his passing. Dr. Sacco was one of the nation’s leading stroke neurologists, focused on population research in cerebrovascular disease, and his dedication to improving the quality of stroke care was unwavering and led to numerous advances in the field. His gracious presence, drive and dedication fueled changes that improved stroke research and fostered the development of targeted stroke care delivery, ultimately improving stroke recovery and post-stroke quality of life for many. As the 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 realizing the impact of modifiable lifestyle behaviors, such as alcohol consumption and physical activity, on stroke risk. Dr. Sacco influenced the careers of countless physicians, researchers and health care professionals, and his impact as a leader and mentor will endure for generations to come.

For additional information, Dr. Sacco’s full obituary is available here. At his family’s request, donations in Dr. Sacco’s memory may be made to the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association.

Additional Resources:

The Association receives funding primarily from individuals. Foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific Association programs and events. The Association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and biotech companies, device manufacturers and health insurance providers and the Association’s overall financial information are available here.

About the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association

The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives and includes the American Stroke Association. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public's health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.orgFacebookTwitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1. 


For Media Inquiries: 214-706-1173, AHACommunications@heart.org

Michelle Kirkwood: 703-457-7838, michelle.kirkwood@heart.org

Public Inquiries: 1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721)

heart.org and stroke.org