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George L Bakris, MD, Expert in Hypertension and Metabolic Disease, Has Died


Described as a giant and a pioneer in the hypertension and metabolic fields, Bakris is also remembered so fondly by colleagues as a very special man.

The editors at Patient Care Online® join friends, colleagues, research partners, and untold numbers of patients in mourning the passing of George L Bakris, MD. He died on June 15, 2024, at the age of 72, according to reports today.

George L Bakris, MD, Expert in Hypertension and Metabolic Disease, Has Died / image courtesy of University of Chicago
Courtesy University of Chicago

Bakris was most recently director of the University of Chicago Comprehensive Hypertension Center, where he had worked since 2006. Prior to that he had been vice chair of the department of preventive medicine at Rush University Medical Center for more than 10 years.

Patient Care Online editors were lucky to consult with Dr Bakris as a member of the website’s editorial advisory board for 5 years. He provided direction for us on tailoring education to primary care physicians on topics in his areas of expertise for which he was internationally recognized: hypertension, diabetic kidney disease and nephropathy progression, and the areas of overlap that cause the spectrum of metabolic disease.

Ready and willing

Dr Bakris rarely turned down a request for an interview over the years and during the COVID-19 lockdown truly enjoyed the fact that he could discuss breaking study findings with reporters from New York followed by Germany then by Australia with time in between to refresh his coffee or make his lunch. During an interview with Patient Care just before the in-person return to a large annual society meeting Bakris said, sure, the science would be great but even better was going to be the opportunity to be back in the same ballrooms and lounges with colleague-friends he’d been separated from for so long.

Bakris had a knack for sounding conversational in an interview, no matter how complex the topic or convoluted the science. He could simplify without being reductionist and amplify without losing his immediate audience, this editor. He returned often to relate his comments to the Patient Care audience at large, primary care clinicians of all backgrounds.

“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, MDthe 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.

Body of work

Bakris was widely published in prestigious scientific journals, an author on more than 800 peer reviewed manuscripts. Most recently he was an investigator for the kidney-outcomes FLOW trial that found semaglutide, the GLP-1 receptor agonist, reduces the risk of major renal disease events, major adverse cardiovascular events, and all-cause death in adults with diabetes and chronic kidney disease.

In 2020 Bakris led the investigative team that studied the nonsteroidal mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist finerenone, their research leading to FDA approval of the drug in 2021 as a first-in-class treatment for adults with type 2 diabetes-associated chronic kidney disease. The approved indication to reduce the risk of kidney disease progression, kidney failure, and multiple cardiovascular outcomes filled a significant treatment void for millions of patients.

George L Bakris, MD, Expert in Hypertension and Metabolic Disease, Has Died / image courtesy of University of Chicago

In a recent interview with Healio, Keith C. Ferdinand, MD, the Gerald S. Berenson Endowed Chair in Preventative Cardiology and professor of medicine at Tulane University School of Medicine and Healio|Cardiology Today Editorial Board Member, said he had worked with Bakris for several decades and enjoyed being on the stage with him at a major symposium where they would “banter back and forth on how best to apply the emerging data not just on hypertension but cardio-kidney-metabolic disease. He was prescient in identifying that we should not work in silos; that cardiologists, nephrologists, endocrinologists, advanced practice nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists and internists are all part of a team; and that patients need everyone to chip in and do their part to control the ravages of cardiovascular, kidney and metabolic disease.”

In addition to direct patient care and research, Bakris contributed time and expertise to several important guideline writing efforts, including the Joint National Committee (JNC) VI and the JNC 7, and the National Kidney Foundation's Kidney Disease Outcomes Quality Initiative blood pressure guideline committee and diabetes guideline committee. Demonstrating his strong belief that patient care should be multidisciplinary, he also served as chair of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) consensus report on hypertension in diabetes (2016-2017), co-chair of the American Society of Hypertension committee for 2 version of hypertension in diabetes guidelines (2008, 2010), and was a member of the ADA’s clinical practice guideline committee (2018-2021).

Bakris completed his medical training at the Chicago Medical School and completed residency in internal medicine at the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine where he also completed a research fellowship in physiology and biophysics. He went on to complete dual fellowships in nephrology and clinical pharmacology at the University of Chicago.

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