News Release

Researchers to receive first-ever Ralph L. Sacco Scholarships for Brain Health

American Academy of Neurology and American Heart Association sward $150,000 scholarships to researchers from Texas, Connecticut

Grant and Award Announcement

American Academy of Neurology

MINNEAPOLIS and DALLAS – The American Academy of Neurology and the American Heart Association have awarded the first-ever Ralph L. Sacco Scholarships for Brain Health to two researchers, Patrick Devlin, Ph.D., of Houston, Texas, and Cyprien Rivier, M.D., M.Sc., of New Haven, Connecticut. Each will receive a $150,000 two-year scholarship to support continuing scientific research in brain health. Devlin and Rivier also receive the honor of being named the inaugural “Sacco Scholars.”

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 organizations. He passed away in 2023 from a brain tumor.

“For more than 20 years, Dr. Ralph Sacco served as a dedicated volunteer for the American Heart Association, particularly leading the acceleration of our investment into and emphasis on brain health. He was the first neurologist to ever serve as our volunteer president,” said Nancy Brown, the American Heart Association’s chief executive officer. “He had big ideas and put them into action in ways that improved and saved the lives of all people. One of his greatest joys was mentoring young scientists, boosting their careers the same way icons of previous generations did for him. I am so proud to be able to welcome our first-ever Sacco Scholars in memory of my very dear friend.”

“It was important to Dr. Ralph Sacco to support continued research in brain health because, as he said, each and every one of us only has one brain, and it is critical to keep it as healthy as possible,” said American Academy of Neurology President Carlayne E. Jackson, M.D., FAAN. “We look forward to the inaugural year of this scholarship program with the first two Sacco Scholars and the vital research they will do to help find ways for all of us to improve our brain health.”

“Ralph was a personal friend and mentor, and I am grateful that his legacy of influencing the careers of countless physicians, researchers and health care professionals will live on through this unique scholarship program,” said Mitchell S.V. Elkind, M.D., M.S., FAAN, FAHA, chief clinical officer and past president of the American Heart Association. “These research projects will build upon his decades of work in saving and improving the lives of people with stroke and will break new ground in our knowledge of how vascular disease impacts cognitive decline, dementia and brain health more broadly. I look forward to seeing what our awardees learn about the mechanisms of brain aging, both before and after stroke. I know Ralph would have been very interested in their projects.”

“Physicians who had the privilege of training under my dear friend Dr. Ralph Sacco knew he was a remarkable human being with a kind and generous heart,” said Orly Avitzur, M.D., M.B.A., FAAN, Immediate Past President of the American Academy of Neurology. “With the Sacco Scholars program, his mentorship continues as we begin creating a community of researchers focused on brain health.”

Devlin is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Ritzel Lab at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. He is being awarded the scholarship for his research on the after-effects of stroke, specifically how the brain may age more quickly after a stroke, including the aging process of immune cells in the brain. The goal of Devlin’s research is to increase understanding of cognitive decline and dementia after stroke so that new treatments can be developed for people who have had a stroke, resulting in fewer complications such as memory loss. This is especially important to improve long-term quality of life as more people are surviving strokes thanks to advances in stroke diagnosis, treatment and care.

Rivier is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Falcone Lab in the Department of Neurology at Yale University. A significant portion of his work is conducted in collaboration with the Sheth Lab and the Yale Center for Brain and Mind Health. He is being awarded the scholarship for his research on how biological age—as opposed to chronological age—impacts the brain. Rivier is exploring whether people with younger biological age are less likely to develop dementia and stroke. By gaining a better understanding of biological age, Rivier’s research could lead to finding better ways for people to take care of their brain, lowering the risk of major health problems so they can live longer, healthier lives.

Devlin and Rivier began their two-year research projects on July 1.

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’s mission is to enhance member career fulfillment and promote brain health for all. 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, concussion, epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, headache and migraine.

For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit AAN.com or find us on Facebook, X, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.

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 a century. During 2024 - our Centennial year - we celebrate our rich 100-year history and accomplishments. As we forge ahead into our second century of bold discovery and impact our vision is to advance health and hope for everyone, everywhere. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, X or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.


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