Symposium Honors Work of Ronald Victor, MD

Ronald G. Victor, MD, associate director of the Smidt Heart Institute, (right) talks with S. Ananth Karumanchi, MD, acting professor of Medicine, during a recent symposium to honor Victor's contributions to the advancement of the detection and treatment of hypertension.

"Clever and courageous." That is how Allyn Mark, MD, characterized his former colleague Ronald G. Victor, MD, associate director of the Smidt Heart Institute.

Mark, professor and Roy J. Carver Chair in Internal Medicine at the University of Iowa, was among five illustrious scientists who spoke last month at a symposium in honor of Victor, professor of Medicine and director of the Hypertension Center at Cedars-Sinai.

The event, which drew a capacity crowd to Harvey Morse Auditorium, recognized Victor's career-long contribution to the advancement of the detection and treatment of hypertension, including his widely acclaimed study, "A Cluster-Randomized Trial of Blood Pressure Reduction in Black Barbershops," published in The New England Journal of Medicine in March.

The hour-long symposium, presented by the heart institute and the Program in the History of Medicine at Cedars-Sinai, featured presentations by medical directors, clinicians, researchers and academicians, who provided an in-depth, historical context for Victor's achievements. The speakers included:

  • Mark, who shared memories and insights into Victor's professional accomplishments. He recalled Victor's first studies on the body's response to exercise, his evolution as a leading hypertension specialist and finally, his embrace of community and population-based research for the barbershop study. Victor's resilience, bold spirit of inquiry and boundless energy were well noted by Mark.
  • Leon G. Fine, MD, director of the Program in the History of Medicine at Cedars-Sinai and professor of Biomedical Sciences, who spoke about the seminal work of Harry Goldblatt, MD, whose 1930s discovery of the kidney's role in hypertension laid the groundwork for future researchers, including Victor. (Newly acquired video and written material on Goldblatt's life and work are on exhibit in the Cedars-Sinai Medical Library though the first half of August.)
  • Kenneth Bernstein, MD, director of Experimental Pathology and professor of Biomedical Sciences at Cedars-Sinai, who expanded on Fine's look back at over a century of research on hypertension, ending with the 1981 FDA approval of captopril as a lifesaving medication for high blood pressure. The drug was derived from the venom of a pit viper. "The journey to hypertension control has been biblical in scope—and every biblical story needs a good snake!" Bernstein said.
  • S. Ananth Karumanchi, MD, acting professor of Medicine at Cedars-Sinai, who spoke about preeclampsia—dangerously high blood pressure associated with pregnancy that can result in eclampsia, a type of seizure. Recently, researchers have found a substance in the placenta called sFit-1 that is linked to increased risk for preeclampsia and complications from it. He described ongoing research on the mechanisms behind this condition.
  • Ravi Thadhani, MD, MPH, vice dean of Research and Education at Cedars-Sinai and professor of Biomedical Sciences, who expanded on the topic of preeclampsia and focused on the task ahead: building a bridge between the laboratory and the clinic to help diagnose and treat women with this condition. He said this type of "bench-to-bedside" spirit is what motivated Victor in his barbershop study.

In his own remarks, Victor provided insights into the barbershop study, which involved recruiting 319 African-American men with hypertension from 52 local barbershops. The study found that the close aid of the barbers and pharmacists helped participants lower their blood pressure to healthy levels. The exceptional visibility of The New England Journal of Medicine article has inspired insurance companies and the government to contact him do more research with Cedars-Sinai on this issue, Victor said.

Without the help of others, he added, the work could not have happened. "This paper is the culmination of 20 years of research and was a collaborative tour de force of my absolutely brilliant Cedars-Sinai research team," he said. "The barbers who literally or figuratively put their arms around the customer, and the pharmacists that were on site, made this happen."

The July symposium provided more evidence of Victor's talent for inspiring collaboration. "The barbershop studies epitomized the importance of teamwork," Mark said. "The key to that teamwork has been Ron's ability to exude enthusiasm and his skills as a leader."

Related video
To view of video of this event, click on Celebratory Symposium of Ronald Victor, MD.