Equity Hero:
Dr. William “BJ” Hicks

Columbus, Ohio

“Being awarded “Stroke Equity Hero” by the American Stroke Association was both shocking and moving. I am forever inspired and driven by my beloved patients, their families, local community advocates, and my OhioHealth and AHA/ASA colleagues. I went into stroke neurology because there was both a need and opportunity to prevent stroke and vastly improve patient outcomes. And since beginning my journey, I’ve found another source of joy: aiding in policies and strategies critical to stroke prevention. This award serves as a testament to what we have accomplished and further inspires us to continue the work to both enhance patient outcomes and achieve tangible health equity in the prevention and treatment of stroke.” – Dr. William “BJ” Hicks

Black people in the U.S. are significantly more likely than others to have a stroke and become disabled or die as a result — in part because more than two-thirds have at least one stroke risk factor.

Dr. William “BJ” Hicks, a vascular neurologist at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, is working tirelessly to reduce those disparities and ensure health equity for all in Central Ohio.

For years, Hicks has advocated for policies that address health equity, recently proposing an ordinance to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products from companies that have historically targeted Black and Hispanic people.

To further reduce health disparities related to stroke and other conditions, Hicks also urges local leaders to address issues such as the environment, housing instability, food deserts and the lack of diversity in medicine.

As an American Heart Association board member, Hicks was instrumental in 2018 in creating the Franklin County Hypertension Network, which consists of local health systems, primary care professionals, federally qualified health centers and other organizations such as the Mid-Ohio Food Collective, YMCA and Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority.

The network has led efforts to make blood pressure control a priority in Central Ohio, especially for people with low socioeconomic status. It’s also paved the way for several policy, system and environmental achievements.

During his tenure at OhioHealth, Dr. Hicks led a seven-year effort to create the Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit in Central Ohio. Since 2019, the unit has deployed for emergency calls whenever stroke is suspected. On board are stroke-specific team members with access to a CT scanner and point-of-care lab equipment, and stroke neurology experts are connected via telemedicine. By the time patients arrive at one of three comprehensive stroke centers, treatment is already well underway.

Dr. Hicks embodies an Equity Hero. His passion for educating and inspiring others about stroke and addressing health equity and the barriers people face to health care access and quality is unmatched.