History of the Lown Institute

During a research career spanning more than 50 years, Dr. Bernard Lown’s achievements changed the practice of cardiology. He pioneered the development of the direct current defibrillator and contributed substantially to an understanding of the role of psychological factors in heart disease. Throughout his medical career, Dr. Lown emphasized the importance of listening to patients, avoiding unnecessary interventions, and restoring the art of healing. Dr. Lown has also led many humanitarian efforts, such as co-founding International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), for which he was recognized with the Nobel Peace Prize.

Dr. Lown founded the Lown Cardiovascular Research Foundation in 1973 to promote cardiovascular health around the world through research, education, and global outreach. With Dr. Vikas Saini as president, the foundation worked to translate Dr. Lown’s vision of a healthier world into a reality by advocating for preventive medicine, non-invasive management of heart disease, and compassionate healing.

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. That year, the Lown Institute partnered with the New America Foundation to organize Avoiding Avoidable Care, the first conference in the world dedicated to the problem of overtreatment. In 2013, Shannon Brownlee, journalist and author of Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine is Making Us Sicker and Poorer joined the Institute as Senior Vice President.  

The Lown Institute has since led the movement toward the new health system, by organizing six conferences, publishing series on overuse and underuse in The Lancet and American Family Physician, offering fellowships and trainee programs, creating landmark research reports, publishing regular blogs and opinion pieces, and launching the Right Care Alliance, a grassroots activist organization.