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FAU Professor Ranked No. 81 in the History of the World by ‘Science Heroes’ for Saving More Than 1 Million Lives

BOCA RATON, FL (February 16, 2012) — What do Edward Jenner (No. 5), who developed the smallpox vaccine, Jonas Salk (No. 83), who developed the polio vaccine and Henry Heimlich (No. 103), who invented the Heimlich maneuver have in common with Florida Atlantic University’s Dr. Charles H. Hennekens, M.D., DrPH.

They are all scientists recognized by Science Heroes.comfor their discoveries that led directly to saving large numbers of human lives. Hennekens, the first Sir Richard Doll Research Professor in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, is ranked No. 81 in the history of the world for saving more than 1 million lives. As an epidemiologist or “medical detective,” he has dedicated his life to the prevention of premature death and disability.

“My chief motivation to pursue an academic career in preventive cardiovascular medicine was the premature death of my father from sudden cardiac death,” said Hennekens, emphasizing that "death is inevitable, premature death is not."

Hennekens was the founding principal investigator of the landmark Physician's Health Study of 22,071 doctors. He was also a subject in the trial and took a placebo for five years when the federally funded grant was terminated early due to a statistically extreme and clinically important reduction in a first heart attack among those assigned at random to aspirin. He credits the dedicated and conscientious efforts of these participating physicians in enabling him to be the first researcher in the world to discover that aspirin prevents a first heart attack. He was also the first to demonstrate that aspirin prevents heart attacks, strokes, and cardiovascular deaths when given within 24 hours after onset of symptoms of a heart attack as well as to a wide variety of patients who have survived an event associated with a blockage in the heart, brain, or legs.

Hennekens also has done seminal work on the benefits of statins, angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB) as well as beta adrenergic blockers—all of which play major roles in decreasing premature deaths from heart attacks and strokes.

“During National Heart Month it is truly fitting that Professor Hennekens has received this prestigious and well-deserved recognition for his major contributions in the prevention and treatment of a wide range of cardiovascular diseases,” said Dr. David J. Bjorkman, M.D., M.S.P.H., the new dean of FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine.

Hennekens advises the general public that all these cardiovascular drugs of lifesaving benefit should be adjuncts not alternatives to therapeutic lifestyle changes. He strongly advocates avoidance and cessation of smoking, avoidance of obesity, and taking brisk 20 minute daily walks.

“Even these three simple changes will add years to your life as well as life to your years,” said Hennekens, who includes two hours of tennis at least five times a week into his daily regimen. “I’m not even among the top four in my age group at The Hamlet Country Club where I play on a 55 and older team, despite having been ranked No. 4 in the U.S. in squash when I was 40.” Hennekens truly enjoys the exercise and competition and adds that “it is far better to be over the hill than under the hill.”

Science Watch ranked Hennekens as the third most widely cited medical researcher in the world from 1995-2005, and five of the top 20 were his former trainees and/or fellows.


Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University serves more than 29,000 undergraduate and graduate students on seven campuses and sites. FAU’s world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. For more information, visit

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