BUSM Honors Ralph Sacco, ‘83, with 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award

L to R: Karen Antman, Jean Ramsey, Ralph Sacco and George Waters

BUSM Alumni Weekend kicked off Friday, Oct. 4, with an afternoon of celebration and recognition. Following an Open House and Grand Rounds, the second annual Alumni Award Ceremony and Luncheon honored an outstanding alumnus Ralph Sacco, MED’83, with the Alumni Association’s highest accolade.

Associate Dean for Alumni Affairs, Jean E. Ramsey, MED’90, MPH‘08, opened the ceremony and welcomed esteemed guests, including Dean Karen Antman, MD, and George Waters, MED’94, who served as the Alumni Association President and Dean’s Advisory Board representative for the past year.

Before beginning the ceremony, Dr. Ramsey recognized the members of the Class of 1969, who celebrated their 50th reunion this year. Current students circulated throughout the crowd with engraved medallions for the special occasion. Members of the Class were offered the mic to share tips for keeping in touch with classmates (as they FaceTimed classmates who couldn’t be there), why they stay involved and what they have learned from helping prepare for such a big reunion.

Visiting members of the Class of 1969

Leonard Zwerling, MED’69, who played a key role in recruiting his classmates to the event, noted, “Boston University has been very good to me. It is a great honor that I am able to see everybody here. I respect you all, love you all, and I respect Boston University for giving me a chance to become a doctor and fulfilling my life’s dreams.”

“My kindergarten teacher knew I was going to be a doctor, which I was why I had responsibility for the first aid kit. The BU Six-year program chose me as one of eight women in their third class. BU has forever changed my life,” said Geri Feldman, MED’69.

Dr. Waters introduced this year’s Distinguished Alumnus, Dr. Sacco, an international expert in stroke epidemiology, prevention and health disparities, chair of Neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and Chief of Neurology at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital. A member of the National Academy of Medicine, he was the first neurologist to serve as the president of the American Heart Association (AHA).

Dr. Sacco is a fellow of both the Stroke and Epidemiology Councils of the AHA, the American Academy of Neurology and the American Neurological Association, and currently serves as President of the American Academy of Neurology. He also is a member of the American Association of Physicians. Dr. Sacco has been a member of the World Stroke Organization since 2008 and is on the Board of Directors.

Dr. Sacco joined the Columbia faculty and started the Northern Manhattan Study (an underserved and under studied Black and Latino population), modeled after the Framingham study, and published a series of important observations that transformed the field.

He has published extensively in the areas of stroke prevention, treatment, epidemiology, risk factors, vascular cognitive impairment, human genetics and outcomes. He is listed among the 2017 and 2018 highly-cited researchers in medicine.

As a medical student, he worked at the Framingham Heart Study under the mentorship of Dr. Philip Wolf, who was in attendance, which inspired his work in stroke and epidemiology. Dr. Sacco spoke on the importance of scholarships, mentorship and alumni engagement.

“I am grateful to Boston University and Dr. Philip Wolf for being a mentor and giving me my start,” he said. “It’s important that we, as alumni, continue to be passionate to the place that gave us our start. I am grateful for that start and want to continue to give back.”

As the afternoon came to an end, Dr. Waters turned over the Alumni Association presidency to Dr. Frank MacMillan, MED’95. The owner and president of Merrimack Valley Gastroenterology and a Clinical Instructor of Socio-Medical Sciences and Community Health at BUSM, he has been an active member of the Mass Medical Society since 1991, and a member of the Society’s House of Delegates since 2005.