NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Retired NHLBI Public Health Expert Roccella Is Mourned

Dr. Edward Roccella
Dr. Edward Roccella

Dr. Edward Roccella, formerly a leading public health expert in hypertension and cardiovascular disease at NHLBI, died on Nov. 18 at age 77. 

Born in Paterson, N.J., in 1944, Roccella received his bachelor of science degree from East Tennessee State University. He continued his education at the University of Michigan, where he earned master of public health and doctor of philosophy degrees in health education and health behavior. 

Roccella began his professional career as director of continuing education at the University of Pittsburgh Regional Medical Program and as an instructor in community medicine. Subsequently, he became an assistant professor at the University of Michigan Medical School and School of Public Health. 

In 1978, he began a 29-year career at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute as coordinator of the National High Blood Pressure Education Program. In this position, he directed public, patient and professional activities, which have been cited to improve the nation’s hypertension profile and contributed to the nation’s large decline in cardiovascular disease. He led U.S. scientific exchange delegations regarding prevention and treatment of hypertension in Brazil, Germany, Egypt and Jordan. He retired in 2007.

“He remained very active even after retirement as an author and member of various medical/public health advisory boards,” said Dr. Philip Wang, director of the NIH Graduate Partnerships Program in the Office of Intramural Training and Education. “Ed was a beloved friend, mentor and family member.”

Black&white image of Roccella in 1982
Roccella in a 1982 NIH Record photo

Roccella was past president of the Society for Public Health Education and a founding advisory committee member and board member for the Consortium for Southeast Healthcare Quality for two decades. 

Over his career, he authored 110 publications in scientific journals and textbooks and received numerous honors, including the NIH Director’s Award, the University of Michigan John Romani Prize for lifetime achievement in public health administration, the American Society of Hypertension Presidents Award, the International Society of Hypertension in Blacks Presidential Award, the 2008 Frank Lautenberg Award and the World Hypertension League Claude Lenfant MD Excellence Award for Population Hypertension Control. 

In retirement, Roccella enjoyed traveling extensively with his wife, with special fondness for Rome and Sicily, the tulips of Holland and seeing the beauty of the United States from the road. He was an award-winning home winemaker, and according to acquaintances, always brought bushels of oysters for Christmas Day and could be found sitting around a table with family and friends celebrating life with a delicious meal and conversation. 

Roccella was predeceased by his son Andrew Michael Roccella in 2004. Roccella’s survivors include his wife of 55 years, Eileen Marie Roccella; sister Anna Redmond and brother-in-law John; brother Vincent Roccella and sister-in-law Charlotte; sister-in-law Nancy Zavada; and many nieces and nephews. 

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The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

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