Ronald G. Victor

Ronald G. Victor, MD, a prominent hypertension expert and the first investigator to scientifically prove that thousands of lives could be saved annually if barbers were enlisted to help fight the epidemic of high blood pressure in the African-American community, died Monday, Sept. 10. He was 66.

An associate director of the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai since 2009, Victor published his most recent barbershop study results earlier this year in The New England Journal of Medicine and presented them as a Late-Breaking Clinical Trial at the American College of Cardiology’s 67th Annual Scientific Sessions. The results showed nearly 64 percent of study participants reduced their blood pressure to healthy levels after barbers took patrons’ blood pressure and then urged those with high readings to follow-up with pharmacists stationed in the barbershops.

“Dr. Victor showed genuine care and concern for our community’s high blood pressure problem, particularly as it affected black men,” said Eric Muhammad, owner of A New You Barbershop in Inglewood who helped Victor recruit African-American barbers and patrons for the trial and is listed as an author on the published study. “This doctor was an exceptional human being and one of the most humble men I’ve ever met. He didn’t see color or class. He didn’t see anything but our blood pressure problem.”

Uncontrolled hypertension is one of the most prevalent causes of premature disability and death among minorities. African-American men have the highest death rate from hypertension of any race, ethnic and gender group in the United States—three times

Results from a Victor-led study presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in 2017 showed that after boys and young men with Duchenne muscular dystrophy received infusions of cardiac progenitor cells, medical tests indicated that the patients' hearts appeared improved. Participants in the study also scored higher on arm strength tests after receiving the cell infusions.

But Victor was best known for his work in combatting hypertension in the African-American community Born in 1952 in New Orleans, Victor earned his undergraduate degree summa cum laude with distinction at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, where he was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. He earned his medical degree from Tulane University in New Orleans. He completed two residencies at UCLA before completing cardiology fellowships at Duke University in North Carolina, University of Iowa and University of Uppsala in Sweden.

Among his many awards and honors, Victor was a member of the editorial boards of Circulation and the Journal of Clinical Hypertension. In medical circles, he is known for co-authoring the influential textbook Kaplan’s Clinical Hypertension, with his mentor, Norman M. Kaplan, MD. When Victor lived in Dallas, he served as the president of the Dallas affiliate of the American Heart Association, and in 2009, he was president of the Association of University Cardiologists. At Cedars-Sinai, Victor was the Burns and Allen Chair in Cardiology Research.