Leadership Biographies

Ralph L. Sacco, MD, MS, FAHA, FAAN

President, American Academy of Neurology


Ralph L. Sacco, MD, MS, FAHA, FAAN, is the chairman of neurology; Olemberg Family Chair in Neurological Disorders; Miller Professor of Neurology Public Health Sciences, Human Genetics, and Neurosurgery; executive director of the Evelyn McKnight Brain Institute; Senior Associate Dean for Clinical and Translational Science, University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine; and chief of the neurology service at Jackson Memorial Hospital. A graduate of Cornell University and a cum laude graduate of Boston University School of Medicine, he also holds a master's in epidemiology from Columbia University, School of Public Health. Sacco completed his neurology residency training and postdoctoral training in stroke and epidemiology at Columbia Presbyterian in New York. He was previously professor of neurology, chief of Stroke and Critical Care Division, and associate chairman at Columbia University before taking his current position in 2007.

Catherine M. Rydell, CAE

Executive Director and CEO, American Academy of Neurology


Catherine M. Rydell has been the American Academy of Neurology's Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer since 1999. Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with offices in Washington, DC, and Rochester, New York, the AAN is a worldwide professional association of neurologists and neuroscience professionals dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. Under Rydell's leadership, AAN membership has grown from 16,000 to 32,000 members.

Since joining the AAN, Rydell has focused on strengthening advocacy and coalition-building efforts, increasing staff development, improving communication with members and implementing its strategic plan. Under her leadership, the Academy increased educational offerings and established a companion organization to help support new member services and advocacy.

Rydell has also been instrumental in expanding the influence and reach of the AAN by creating entities and initiatives to promote and advance the specialty of neurology. These include initiating the United Council of Neurologic Subspecialties (UCNS) to provide program accreditation and physician certification in subspecialty fields of neurology; forming the AAN Professional Association and its related political action committee, BrainPAC, which extends the Academy's ability to effect positive change for neurologic patients and the profession through partnership with federal legislators; and rebranding the AAN's foundation to what is now the American Brain Foundation, which supports research in prevention, treatment, and cures of brain disease.

Rydell is a Certified Association Executive (CAE), the highest professional credential in the association industry. Less than five percent of all association professionals have earned a CAE designation.

Rydell serves on the Board of Directors of the American Brain Foundation and as a member of the American Medical Association CEO Advisory Committee and the Specialty Society CEO Coalition. She serves as an ex-officio member of the Neurology Residency Review Committee and the United Council of Neurological Subspecialties (UCNS).She also serves on the Board of the University of North Dakota Foundation and Alumni Association.

Prior to joining the AAN, Rydell served as Executive Director of the North Dakota Medical Association. From 1984 through 1996, Rydell served as a state representative in the North Dakota State Legislature where she chaired the House Human Services Committee and the House Education Committee. She also sponsored key health legislation, including the North Dakota Clean Indoor Air Act.


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