Charles H. Hennekens, MD Receives Fries Prize for Improving Health

Charles H. Hennekens, M.D., Dr.P.H., today received the Fries Prize for Improving Health for his first discoveries of the lifesaving benefits of aspirin, as well as groundbreaking work on statins, angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers  and beta adrenergic blockers, which today are cornerstones in the treatment and prevention of heart attacks and strokes. Hennekens was honored at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters, where he also delivered a lecture on his pioneering research. The Fries Prize award presentation to Professor Hennekens was originally scheduled for October 2013 but was postponed due to the partial government shutdown.

Hennekens is the first Sir Richard Doll professor and senior academic advisor to the dean in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University. He was the founding principal investigator of the Physician’s Health Study, which was the first to show that aspirin prevents a first heart attack and the Women’s Health Study, which was the first to show that aspirin prevents a first stroke. In addition, he was the first to demonstrate that aspirin given to a patient within 24 hours after the initial symptoms of a heart attack reduces the death rate as well as further prevents heart attacks or strokes. He also demonstrated similar benefits of aspirin given to patients who survived a blockage in the heart, brain or legs. Hennekens has received numerous awards and honors, including the James D. Bruce Memorial Award from the American College of Physicians, Duncan Clark Award from the American Teachers of Preventive Medicine, and First Public Health Physician of the Year Award for distinguished contributions to research and teaching in preventive medicine. In addition, Science Heroes ranked Hennekens #81 in the history of the world for having saved more than 1.1 million lives.

“When you consider the medical discoveries of the past century, among the most important is Dr. Hennekens' scientific proof of the benefits of aspirin to prevent heart attacks and strokes,” said Dr. James F. Fries, retired Stanford University professor of medicine and chairman of the James F. and Sarah T. Fries Foundation, which awards the annual Fries Prize for Improving Health. “His discoveries have both improved and saved the lives of millions of people who follow the preventive guidelines now put into practice by doctors around the world.”

“I am humbled and honored to receive this prestigious award from the Fries Foundation,” said Hennekens. “This award is especially meaningful to me as my chief motivation to pursue an academic career in preventive cardiovascular medicine was the premature death of my beloved father from sudden cardiac death when I was 17. I am inspired by Jim and Sarah Fries for their commitment to reducing premature deaths and suffering in the United States and worldwide. To paraphrase my mentor, colleague, and friend, Professor Sir Richard Doll, ‘death is inevitable, but premature death is not.’”

First presented in 1992, the Fries Prize for Improving Health recognizes an individual who has made major accomplishments in health improvement with emphasis on recent contributions to health in the United States, and with the general criteria of the greatest good for the greatest number. It is intended for an individual who has done the most to improve health. Fries Prize recipients are awarded $60,000.

The James F. and Sarah T. Fries Foundation is a nonprofit corporation incorporated in 1991. The mission of the Foundation is to identify and honor individuals, organizations, or institutions which have made great contributions to the health of the public. The Foundation seeks to reward accomplishment rather than promise, practicality rather than theory.