First-of-their-kind Brain Health scholarships announced in honor of Dr. Ralph Sacco

(NewMediaWire) – September 21, 2023 – DALLAS and MINNEAPOLIS – In an effort to increase understanding, prevention and treatment of brain disease, the American Heart Association (the Association) and the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) today launched a scholarship program supporting early career trainees focused on how to help people maintain a healthy brain over their lifetime. These scholarships are the first of their kind to be jointly funded by the AAN and the Association.

The Ralph L. Sacco Scholarships in Brain Health, also known as the Sacco Scholars program, are made possible by a generous bequest to the American Academy of Neurology and the American Heart Association from the late Ralph L. Sacco, M.D., M.S., FAAN, FAHA. Sacco was the only neurologist to have served as president of both the AAN and the Association. Sacco passed away on January 17, 2023, due to a brain tumor.

“Dr. Sacco dedicated his career to stroke prevention and the betterment of brain health,” said Orly Avitzur, M.D., M.B.A., FAAN, Immediate Past President of the American Academy of Neurology. “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.”

“It is fitting that Dr. Sacco planned to continue to support trainees through this generous bequest. 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 Mitchell S.V. Elkind, M.D., M.S., FAAN, FAHA, the American Heart Association’s Chief Clinical Science Officer. Dr Elkind serves as the senior staff science leader for all Association initiatives related to stroke, brain health and new integrated efforts including cardio-renal-metabolic health, was past president of the American Heart Association (2020-21), and is a tenured Professor of Neurology and Epidemiology in the Neurology Department at Columbia University in New York City. “The Association is honored to collaborate with the AAN in support of these brain health scholarships in his memory.”

The Sacco Scholars program will award two $150,000 scholarships annually, beginning in 2024, to early career trainees pursuing a two-year research or public health service project focused on 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.

The new Sacco Scholars research program was announced during the AAN’s Brain Health Summit on September 21, 2023, in Washington, D.C. More than 150 leaders with expertise in brain health convened at the summit to advance their roadmap for improving brain health in the U.S.

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. 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.orgFacebookX, or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1. 

About the American Academy of Neurology

The American Academy of Neurology is the world’s largest association of neurologists and neuroscience professionals, with over 40,000 members. The AAN is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, concussion, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube. Learn more about brain health at, home of the American Academy of Neurology’s free patient and caregiver magazine focused on the intersection of neurologic disease and brain health. Follow Brain & Life® on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  


Media Contacts:

AHA: Michelle Kirkwood,, 703-457-7838

AAN: Renee Tessman,, 612-928-6137

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



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