Joseph VitaJoseph A. Vita, M.D., a renowned professor, cardiologist and scientist who launched Journal of the American Heart Association and served as its first editor-in-chief, died Sunday after a battle with lung cancer. He was 58.

From the first issue of the open-access journal known as JAHA in 2012, it has served as an authoritative resource on heart disease and stroke, with Vita dedicated to publishing the latest science to better understand, treat and prevent the world’s two leading causes of death.

“We look forward to working with our authors to speed the dissemination of high-quality science to our readers with the ultimate goal of increasing our understanding of the underlying mechanisms and improving the management of patients with cardiovascular disease and stroke,” he said when the first issue launched.

As scientists began citing and using JAHA articles to help accelerate scientific ideas into medial practice, the journal began receiving recognition as a leading cardiac journal. Colleagues called him a visionary in his field.

Vita was a longtime volunteer for the American Heart Association, and the organization’s leaders mourned his loss.

“This is a loss of not only an exceedingly talented scholar and an editor for JAHA, but also a loss of an AHA leader, a personal friend, a husband and a father,” said American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown. “His contributions to cardiovascular science have been invaluable, and his loss will be felt by all in the community.”

Vita was a professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and a senior cardiologist in the Section of Cardiovascular Medicine. He earned a bachelor of science degree in Chemistry at Yale College and completed his medical degree at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He also practiced cardiology at Boston Medical Center.

Vita was a Fellow of the AHA, the American College of Cardiology and the American College of Nutrition. He was a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the Association of University Cardiologists and the Society for Vascular Medicine. He is a past member of the Cardiovascular Board of the American Board of Internal Medicine. He also served as the deputy editor of the AHA journal Circulation.

Over the course of his career, Vita received funding from more than 50 research grants and authored more than 145 peer-reviewed articles and 60 reviews and book chapters. Recent research included an AHA-sponsored grant to study the relationship between cigarette smoking and markers of vascular injury and cardiovascular disease.

AHA President Elliott Antman, M.D., said Vita would be greatly missed — both professionally and personally.

“The scientific community has suffered a great loss with the passing of Joe Vita, who was a beloved and respected clinician, translational scientist and journal editor,” said Antman, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a senior physician in the Cardiovascular Division of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “He was dedicated to the pursuit of academic excellence and scientific rigor, demanding that everything always pass scientific muster. In addition to his expertise, vision and skill, Joe was a good friend and colleague for decades. I am deeply saddened by his loss. We shall all miss him.”

Vita is survived by his wife, Gina Marie (Fantasia), daughter Olivia and son Sam.

Visitation will be Nov. 5 from 3-7 p.m. at Sullivan Funeral Home, 551 Washington St. in Hanover, Massachusetts. The funeral service will be held Nov. 6 at 11 a.m. at Old Ship Church, 107 Main St. in Hingham.

In lieu of flowers, please consider the following:

  • Boston University is establishing a program to honor Vita. Gifts can be made to Trustees of Boston University. Note with gift should indicate in honor of Dr. Joseph Vita.  Boston University  Development Office, 72 East Concord Street L219,  Boston, MA 02118;
  • Donations are also being accepted for the research lab of Dr. Pasi Janne, Joe’s oncologist. Note with gift should include to Honor Joseph Vita c/o The Janne Lab. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute |  Division of Development & the Jimmy Fund 10 Brookline Place West,  Brookline, MA 02445-7225;
  •  Gifts can also be made to benefit Vita’s family. Joseph Vita Beneficiary Fund, Hingham Institute of Savings, 55 Main Street, Hingham, MA 02043.