“We are tackling the greatest health problem of today and the coming years – the innumerable and complex disabilities of the aging population.”
--founder Irving S. Wright, MD, in the first AFAR newsletter, 1981
Through the visionary leadership of Irving S. Wright, MD, AFAR was founded in 1981 to fund and nurture talented scientists and physicians, and to encourage them to pursue lifelong careers in research focused on aging processes and age-related diseases.
Dr. Wright had the foresight to realize that there would be a substantial age boom in the years ahead, yet scant resources devoted to research on clinical care to support such a boom.
Dr. Wright convened a group of 35 leading geriatricians, gerontologists and lay people to map out the needs for an aging society. Key to addressing this need would be greater commitment to the field of aging research, providing financial support to encourage more scientists to enter the field and more geriatricians to care for an aging population.
By 1982, AFAR awarded its first grants to five promising researchers. By the end of that decade, AFAR awarded nearly 200 grants.
From this modest start, more than three decades later, AFAR since has supported over 4,000 investigators at more than 500 leading institutions nationwide through over $172 million in grant awards--all to advance research that will extend healthspan, the time we are in optimal health as we age.
Dr. Wright's Legacy
Dr. Irving S. Wright was a pioneer in aging research, who, at the age of 78, founded AFAR. Dr. Wright earned both his BA and MD from Cornell University, and later served as attending physician at New York Hospital and professor of clinical medicine at Cornell University Medical College, before becoming an Emeritus Professor in 1967.
A renowned clinician, researcher and educator, Dr. Wright's groundbreaking contributions extended beyond the field of geriatric medicine; he was also an international figure in cardiovascular disease and former president of the American Heart Association.He pioneered the use of anticoagulants such as heparin and coumatin, which enables many modern cardiovascular therapies, including bypass surgery and angioplasty. The Wright Center for Aging Research and Clinical Care at Cornell University/Weill Medical College is dedicated to continuing his remarkable and far-reaching work.
Dr. Wright remained a valuable member of our board until his passing in 1997, and AFAR honors his legacy through two named initiatives:
-- the Irving S. Wright Award of Distinction honors exceptional contributions to basic or clinical research in the field of aging by member of the scientific community, and
-- the forthcoming Irving S. Wright Legacy Society will provide planned giving opportunities to support AFAR.