Dr. Victor Sutton: A champion for heart health

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Dr. Victor Sutton

By Alice Thomas-Tisdale

JA Publisher Emerita

Dr. Victor Sutton has his finger on the pulse of preventative health care, particularly among African Americans, and specifically among those living in Jackson, MS as it relates to the Jackson Heart Study (JHS). As principal investigator of JHS, which remains the lead research team to investigate the causes of heart disease in African Americans, Dr. Sutton works tirelessly to put in place proactive measures to improve his fellow neighbors’ overall quality of life. 

The cardiovascular study is mainly driven by strong community-based partnerships Dr. Sutton oversees. These include the Mississippi’s State Department of Health Office of Preventive Health and Health Equity (OPHHE), which interfaces with the NHLBI-funded community engagement center for the JHS, the NHLBI-funded CEAL (Community Engagement Alliance Against COVID-19 Disparities), as well as the CDC-funded Delta Health Collaborative. 

“Our team’s mission is clear,” said Dr. Sutton. “The Jackson Heart Study’s role is to eliminate heart health inequities, among other chronic diseases.”

Dr. Sutton’s passion for healthy communities stems from his experience with immediate family.  He has witnessed the effects of high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and dementia and knows the toll it can take on a family and those who serve as caregivers.  

“It has always been personal to educate all people especially those in the African American community who tend to deal with these issues disproportionately,” shared Dr. Sutton.

A native of Pasadena, CA but raised in West Jackson since he was five years old, Dr. Sutton is a graduate of Provine High School. He received his PhD in public policy and administration with a concentration in health administration from  Jackson State University with further study at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in the Department of Preventive Medicine.

Dr. Sutton’s career in public health extends over a decade in professional roles with the Mississippi Department of Human Services’ Office of Children and Youth, the New York Department of Labor, and non-profit organizations, including the Community Organization for Health Awareness (COHA). As Director of COHA, Dr. Sutton developed a mentoring network that addressed health and education among at-risk youth in the juvenile system. 

In Mississippi, more people die of cardiovascular illnesses than cancer or other chronic conditions. Twenty percent more Black Americans than any other race die from heart disease each year. 

For the past 20 years, the focus of the landmark JHS study has been heart health. “The Jackson Heart Study has made significant progress in changing these statistics. By working with barbershops, churches, HBCUs, and other champions of the Black community, JHS is ensuring the state leverages the strengths of all its ‘village’ members,” stated Dr. Sutton.

Although the JHS is a top priority of Dr. Sutton, it is not the only one. 

Few in the medical field hold more levels of responsibility for the health of not just a community but an entire state. As head of The Office of Preventive Health and Health Equity, Office of Health Services, and Office of Field Services, he tackles a multitude of health disparities, as well as community-based corrections, and community and economic development. Dr. Sutton and his team have been successful in this regard by forming partnerships with schools, faith-based organizations, health care systems, worksites, municipalities, and communities.  

Our Black History Month champion also manages the programmatic planning, implementation, and evaluation of federal and state grants.

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Dr. Victor Sutton: A champion for heart health

By Jackson Advocate News Service
March 3, 2024