CMHC Pulse Blog

The entire CMHC and cardiometabolic community mourns the loss of Dr. George L. Bakris, an internationally recognized and influential nephrologist and hypertension expert, who passed away on June 15, 2024, at the age of 72. His contributions have left an indelible mark on countless patients and healthcare professionals privileged to work alongside him. This week’s blog celebrates the life and legacy of Dr. Bakris. 

A Pioneering Journey: The Life and Legacy of Dr. George L. Bakris

Dr. George L. Bakris’s distinguished career in medicine spanned over four decades, marked by significant contributions to the fields of diabetic kidney disease, hypertension, and nephropathy progression. His journey began at the University of Chicago, where he laid a strong foundation with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Psychology (1974) and a Master of Arts in Human Development (1975).  

Pursuing his passion for medicine, Dr. Bakris obtained his medical degree from Chicago Medical School in 1981. His postgraduate training was both extensive and diverse, reflecting his commitment to a comprehensive understanding of internal medicine and its subspecialties. Notable milestones in his training included: 

  • Internal Medicine Residency at Mayo Clinic (1982) 

  • Physiology and Hypertension Fellowship at Mayo Clinic (1984) 

  • Internal Medicine Residency at the University of Illinois Chicago (1986) 

  • Clinical Pharmacology Fellowship at the University of Chicago (1987) 

  • Nephrology Fellowship at the University of Chicago (1988) 

This rigorous training prepared Dr. Bakris for a career at the forefront of hypertension research. His professional journey began as the Director of Renal Research at Ochsner Clinic and Tulane University School of Medicine (1988-1991), followed by a significant tenure at Rush University Medical Center in Preventive Medicine (1993-2006). 

Throughout his career, Dr. Bakris held numerous leadership positions that shaped policies and guidelines in his field: 

  • Member of the NIH National High Blood Pressure Education Program Working Group on Hypertension and Renal Disease (1994) 

  • Chair of the National Kidney Foundation’s Inaugural Consensus Report on “Blood Pressure and Impact on Renal Disease Progression” (2000) 

  • President of the American College of Clinical Pharmacology (2000-2002) 

  • Special Government Expert on the Cardio-Renal Advisory Board of the Food and Drug Administration (2003-2024) 

  • President of the American Society of Hypertension (2010-2012) 

Dr. Bakris’s research focused on the intricate relationships between hypertension, diabetes, and kidney disease. His work was particularly influential in understanding racial disparities in disease progression and developing targeted interventions. With over 700 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters and editorship of more than 19 textbooks, Dr. Bakris made substantial contributions to the medical literature in these conditions. 

In recognition of his lifetime of achievement, Dr. Bakris was awarded the Irvine Page and Alva Bradley Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Heart Association’s Council on Hypertension in 2019. This prestigious honor underscored the significance of his contributions to the field. 

At the time of his death, Dr. Bakris worked as a professor of medicine and director of the Comprehensive Hypertension Center within the Section of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism at the University of Chicago Medicine, where he advanced research and educated future medical professionals, and provide expert care to patients since 2006.  

Personal Anecdotes and Stories 

  • “George was a leader, an independent thinker, and a friend. He will be greatly missed,” Virend K Somers MBChB, DPhil, consultant cardiologist in the Department of Cardiovascular Diseases at Mayo Clinic, CMHC Faculty Member, told CMHC. 

  • “Dr. Bakris was no-nonsense, yet kind-hearted as could be. When he had enough of something, he would declare, ‘Next!’ and always with a twinkle in his eye. He also used to famously say, ‘This is not your Mother’s…’ We were truly friends for life. His loss leaves an enormous void that can only be filled with fond memories of our beloved George,” Katherine R. Tuttle, MD, Executive Director for Research at Providence Health Care, CMHC Faculty Member, told CMHC. 

  • “George, to me, was a nephrology encyclopedia who would pick up unplanned phone calls any time of the day and enthusiastically get engaged in a scientific discussion. He was simply the best, both as a person and as a professional. I will dearly miss him,” added Javed Butler, MD, MPH, MBA, Professor and chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, CMHC Faculty Member. 

  • “More than anything. Dr. George Bakris was a great guy and a wonderful friend. He was a generous collaborator and extremely prolific in terms of his research contributions. In this way, through his many friends, colleagues, collaborators, and especially trainees, his knowledge and wisdom will be kept alive for countless generations to come,” Deepak L. Bhatt, MD, MPH, director of Mount Sinai Heart, the Dr. Valentin Fuster Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and CMHC Faculty Member told CMHC. 

  • “Dr. Bakris refused to slow down or give up after he was diagnosed. He fought really hard and on top of it he continued to work as if nothing had happened. Above all, he was a very warm person. Always very gracious with his time and his advice on what to do, what not to do, especially when we were serving on various steering committees. You will be missed greatly by all of us,” added Rajiv Agarwal, MD, MS, Professor of Medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine and CMHC Faculty Member.

  • “Dr. Bakris was ahead of his time, what we would call prescient in that, although he was a nephrologist, he saw the link between the kidney, high blood pressure, diabetes, and the overall cardiometabolic condition. When I heard of his passing, I felt quite sad. But all of us can also smile remembering this great person, George Bakris,” Keith C. Ferdinand, MD, FACC, FAHA, FASPC, FNLA, the Gerald S. Berenson Endowed Chair in Preventative Cardiology and Professor of Medicine at Tulane University School of Medicine, and longtime CMHC Faculty Member told CMHC. 

  • “Very sad news of the death of George Bakris. He was a good friend, coauthor, mentor/supporter, and the most recognizable leader in clinical hypertension in our generation,” wrote Aldo J. Peixoto, MD, Professor of Medicine in the Section of Nephrology at the Yale University School of Medicine (@ajpeixoto). 

  • “Dr. Bakris was passionate and worked tirelessly to advance and provide the best care to patients. He was an exceptional leader, mentor, and friend who we will miss dearly,” Everett E. Vokes, MD, the John E. Ultmann Distinguished Service Professor, Chair of the Department of Medicine and Physician in Chief at the University of Chicago Medicine & the Biological Sciences, wrote in a statement issued to the University of Chicago Department of Medicine

  • “We lost a giant in the metabolic and hypertension field who started in New Orleans and made his reputation in Chicago. His most recent work targeting hepatic angiotensinogen synthesis with an RNA interference molecule (zilbesiran) injection every 6 months has the potential to be a game-changer in hypertension,” Carl J. Pepine, MD, MACC, Eminent Scholar Emeritus and Professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Florida, Gainesville added. 

  • “Everyone recognized his huge personality, boundless energy, and infectious humor. He always brought an inimitable combination of intellect and zaniness to every meeting,” said Robert D. Brook, MD, Wayne Health and Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, to TCTMD

  • “I am not sure my heart can handle more bad news. Dr. George Bakris- you were so funny, smart, and inspiring. And you made me laugh every time you spoke, with your great sense of humor and intolerance for stupidity. RIP my dear friend, teacher & mentor,” wrote Martha Gulati, MD, MS, FACC, FAHA, FASPC, FESC, Director of Preventative Cardiology, Associate Director of the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center, Associate Director of the Preventive and Cardiac Rehabilitation Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Smidt Heart Institute, and CMHC Faculty Member (@DrMarthaGulat). 

From the CMHC Team 

For nearly two decades, Dr. Bakris has been a pillar of CMHC, generously sharing his expertise, passion, and unwavering dedication to advancing the field of cardiometabolic health. His presence, wisdom, and invaluable contributions have been a guiding light for our organization, and his absence will be keenly felt by all who had the privilege of knowing and working with him. 

On behalf of the CMHC community, we stand united in our grief, extending our heartfelt condolences to Dr. Bakris’ family, friends, and colleagues. We share in your loss and mourn the departure of such an extraordinary individual. Dr. George L. Bakris’ legacy will forever be remembered. May his impact inspire us in the relentless pursuit of better health outcomes for all as we honor his memory through our steadfast efforts in the field he so graciously served. 

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