In Memoriam: Dr. Bernard Lown

Dr. Bernard Lown, emeritus professor of public health and a world-renowned cardiologist and activist whose career has advanced public health globally, passed away on Tuesday, February 16, 2021 at the age of 99.  The Bernard Lown Cardiovascular Scholars Program was established within the Department of Global Health and Population at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Heath in 2008 as a way to honor Dr. Lown’s immeasurable contributions to the field.

Dr. Lown’s career spanned decades and includes many notable achievements including: groundbreaking work on the causes and treatment of heart disease, including cardiac arrhythmias, and the development of the direct current (DC) defibrillator that has become a lifesaving device worldwide.  Additionally, he became world-renowned for his dedication to the prevention of nuclear war.  In 1960, during the tensions of the Cold War, he was one of the founders of Physicians for Social Responsibility and in 1980, he and Dr. Yevgeny Chazov established International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW).  This group was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985.

The Lown Cardiovascular Research Foundation was founded by Dr. Lown in 1973 to promote cardiovascular health around the world through research, education, and global outreach.  The organization was renamed the Lown Institute in 2012 to reflect a shift from primarily cardiovascular research toward a broader focus on health care issues such as medical overuse and underuse, health equity, and cost of care.

The Bernard Lown Scholars in Cardiovascular Health Program trains mid-career public health professionals and scientists who live and work in developing countries, to create a new cadre of leaders for cardiovascular disease prevention worldwide.  Dr. Goodarz Danaei was appointed Faculty Director of the Lown Scholars Program in 2016.  In speaking of Dr. Lown, Dr. Danaei noted, “He was and will continue to be a source of inspiration to physicians, public health professionals, scientists and activists worldwide. He had a passion to better human life by asking the right questions and finding the underlying causes of illness. In my monthly meetings with him, I learned innumerable lessons. I most of all cherish how he taught me to listen attentively and look deeply. At the Lown Scholars Program, we aspire to carry on his legacy by listening to those in need and attending to the ‘heart’ of the matter when serving them.”

Dr. Lown’s legacy will be forever remembered by the Harvard Chan School community.  The Lown Scholars will continue to honor Dr. Lown and his mission of improving cardiovascular health around the world. Read more about Dr. Lown’s life and legacy on these pages: School News | New York Times obituaryLown Scholars Program

Dr. Lown’s Portrait Unveiling at the Department of Global Health and Population:

On World Heart Day, September 29, 2021, friends, colleagues, and family gathered virtually to honor Dr. Lown’s contributions to cardiology, global health, and humanity.  A recording of Dr. Lown’s portrait unveiling at the Department of Global Health and Population is available online here.