Remembering Drs. Ralph Sacco, Susan Smyth, and Gerald Supinksi

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We are saddened to share the news of the recent losses of our colleagues and friends in the CTSA community, Drs. Ralph Sacco, Susan Smyth, and Gerald Supinski, following the loss of Dr. Rebecca Jackson earlier in 2022.

In remembrance of these remarkable physician-scientist giants in the CTSA community, we encourage you to take a few moments to reflect and consider reading some of the tributes shared by those who knew or worked closely with them.

Remembering Dr. Ralph Sacco, University of Miami, Clinical and Translational Science Institute

The University of Miami Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) mourns the passing of its director and multi-principal investigator Ralph L. Sacco, M.D., M.S., FAHA, who was a brilliant researcher, dedicated clinician, and transformational leader.

He died peacefully at his home in New York following a courageous battle with glioblastoma.

Dr.Sacco was professor and chair of the Department of Neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, senior associate dean for clinical and translational science, and an internationally renowned stroke neurologist.

Part of the Miami CTSI since its inception in 2012, Dr. Sacco became its director and principal investigator in 2015, ensuring a steadfast commitment to furthering its mission of translating research that addresses health equity and improves the health of our diverse communities. He also served on the NCATS-CTSA Steering Committee (2020-2022).

“I feel so lucky to have worked closely with Ralph over so many years. He was the most approachable giant that I have ever known, and I have benefitted tremendously from his guidance, vision, and commitment to advancing health equity in translational science,” said Erin Kobetz, Ph.D., MPH, who along with Olveen Carrasquillo, M.D, MPH, joined the Miami CTSI’s leadership team in December 2021 as MPIs alongside Dr. Sacco.

Under his tenure, the Miami CTSI expanded its impact to advance excellence in clinical and translational research by supporting cutting-edge science, broadening its research data networks, establishing new collaborations, developing training initiatives that emphasized mentoring and team science, and launching programs to facilitate participant recruitment into health research studies.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, a uniquely challenging and important time for translational science, Dr. Sacco worked to ensure research could be quickly activated to address COVID-19, and that we also didn’t lose sight of the other critically important science being conducted.

Miami CTSI Executive Directors, Sheela Dominguez and Daru Ransford, appreciated that he always recognized the hard work of the Miami CTSI team. He was deeply invested in the team’s wellbeing and morale, and fondly remember his calls while he drove home from work to check on everyone. They both conveyed, “He was our mentor, friend and most importantly, our family. Arguably one of the most accomplished physician scientists, Dr. Sacco will forever be remembered as a remarkable leader who was in a league of his own.”

Members of the Miami CTSI leadership team, its program directors and staff alike remember him as someone who brought people together and recognized that our accomplishments were a direct result of the collaborative work of many dedicated people across our Hub.

“I will truly miss Ralph Sacco for many reasons including our discussions on research, leadership and other stimulating topics. I had the pleasure to work with Ralph over the years on our neuroscience programs and especially enjoyed our interactions with the Miami CTSI leadership. During these sessions, I learned to appreciate Ralph’s focus on getting the job done at the highest level of excellence and drive to advance research and training. Ralph received many well deserved national and international awards and made a major impact on numerous University of Miami programs. He will be solely missed by his colleagues and friends but has left us with many lasting memories,” said Miami CTSI associate director W. Dalton Dietrich, Ph.D.

“Ralph was the most intelligent, hardworking, well-organized, and compassionate person I have ever met. He recognized and championed the value of team science in research. His contribution to the scientific community, CTSI, University of Miami, and the community are unmeasurable. All will dearly miss him, as we all loved him,” said Miami CTSI associate director Dushyantha T. Jayaweera, M.D.

“Having worked with Ralph for over 15 years in numerous capacities, I can tell you he was the driving force in helping propel our CTSI to greatness. We hope to carry on his vision and passion, not only for translational science, but his lifelong commitment to health equity and bringing the benefits of health discoveries to all people. Through the CTSI, we hope to continue that goal, and we will work tirelessly to make sure his legacy is accomplished,” said Dr. Carrasquillo.

Additional Tributes:

Remembering Dr. Susan Smyth, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Translational Research Institute

In Memoriam – Susan S. Smyth, M.D., Ph.D.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences is deeply saddened to share that Susan S. Smyth, M.D., Ph.D., a longtime member of our CTSA family, died Dec. 31, 2022, after a battle with cancer. She was 57.

Smyth was a nationally respected cardiologist, translational researcher and leader in academic medicine. She served on the NCATS-CTSA Steering Committee (2017-2020) while at the University of Kentucky, where she was senior associate director of the Kentucky Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS).

In 2021, she became executive vice chancellor of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and dean of its College of Medicine. During her time there, Smyth created and expanded initiatives to improve health care and health equity in Arkansas, and she worked to increase the college’s national standings in medical education, research and clinical care.

“Susan was a remarkable leader, colleague and friend who will be deeply missed by many across our state, especially those of us fortunate enough to work with her,” said UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA. “Susan’s death is a great loss for UAMS, our state and all who knew her.”

“Susan supported numerous UAMS Translational Research Institute initiatives,” added Laura James, M.D., director of the Translational Research Institute. “During her first six months here, she committed two additional KL2 slots through College of Medicine funds. She was passionate about developing translational researchers and was actively participating in our CTSA grant renewal efforts this past fall.”

Smyth served on the University of Kentucky faculty for 15 years and was the Jeff Gill Professor of Cardiology, chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, and director of the Gill Heart and Vascular Institute in 2011-2021. She also served as a cardiologist and funded investigator for the VA Health Care System. She lent her expertise to numerous national scientific panels and professional organizations, authored more than 200 publications and contributed to over a dozen textbooks.

In a tribute to Smyth on the University of Kentucky website, Lisa Tannock, vice dean for faculty affairs and development, remembers Smyth as a “true triple threat” — an outstanding physician-scientist, a caring and compassionate clinician, and a fantastic educator who mentored many trainees and guided faculty to excel in career development.

A native of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Smyth graduated from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, with a Bachelor of Arts in biology before earning both a medical degree and doctorate in pharmacology from the University of North Carolina (UNC). She completed her internal medicine residency, including a year as chief resident, at University Medical Center in Stony Brook, New York, and cardiology fellowships at Mount Sinai Medical School in New York and UNC, where she joined the faculty in 2001.

In 1988, Smyth met Andrew Morris, Ph.D. They were married in 1992 and continued to pursue their shared love of science and careers in research and medicine together while raising their sons, Edward and William. The couple established and directed an internationally known cardiovascular disease research program as faculty members at UNC, Kentucky and then UAMS, and as funded investigators with the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System. Smyth was particularly proud of her 18 years of service and the care she was able to provide for veterans as an attending physician at the Lexington, Kentucky, and Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare systems.

– Laura James, M.D., director of the Translational Research Institute

Celebration of Life for Dr. Susan S. Smyth: Thursday February 9, 2023 – 4 PM CT at UAMS and Virtually

Additional Tributes:

Remembering Dr. Gerald Supinski, University of Kentucky, Center for Clinical and Translational Science

Jerry played a critical role for the Center for Clinical and Translational Science in providing administrative oversight of the KL2 program as multi-PI since its inception in 2011 (renewed in 2016 and 2020). In this role, he served as a tireless advocate for the career development of clinician scientists and the mentoring of junior investigators. Regardless of the circumstances, Jerry was always quick to provide our scholars with insightful guidance and encouragement, often in combination with a clarifying allegory and/or a shared life experience, and always with a twinkle in his eye. Jerry shepherded career development of early career scholars at UK for the past decade.

Jerry was a clinician scientist in the Division of Pulmonary Medicine and Critical Care at UK. His research focused on muscle function in chronic disease, especially diaphragm dysfunction and mitochondrial free radical production in patients following sepsis, respiratory failure and multiorgan system failure. He was a regular contributor to the UK Center for Muscle Biology and was continuously funded by the NIH and other agencies for 30 years and published over 120 peer reviewed articles and eight book chapters.

Jerry will be remembered as an outstanding researcher who contributed much to muscle biology and post ICU care, and as a tireless advocate for junior investigators.

– Phil Kern, MD, Director, and Tom Kelly, PhD, Associate Director of the University of Kentucky Center for Clinical and Translational Science

Additional Tributes: