skip to Main Content

History of the American Heart Association

the history of the american heart association title graphic

Did you know? Since its establishment, the American Heart Association has funded 13 Nobel Prize Winners and has donated more than $3.5 billion in funds benefiting cardiovascular disease research.

These are only a few of the ways that the AHA has made an enormous impact in cardiovascular disease treatment, research, and awareness. In observance of National Heart Awareness Month, we wanted to take a look back at more than 90 years of life-saving history and the remarkable achievements that the AHA has contributed to improving cardiac health.

1920’s: Establishing AHA and Scientific Sessions

Starting as a mere initiative to become more educated on heart disease, six cardiologists came together to officially establish the American Heart Association.

The first Scientific Sessions conference was held in 1925 and became an annual tradition, except for the WWII years. Since then, this event has matured into the largest annual cardiovascular meeting in the United States and a renowned global event.

1940’s: A Decade of Milestones

AHA celebrates the first National Heart Week in 1947! One year later, AHA restructures from a scientific society to a voluntary health organization. By hosting fundraisers within businesses and communities, their visibility grew exponentially.

In 1948, the AHA awards its first grant to Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Albert Szent-Györgyi to research the energy requirements of muscle contractions including the contractions of the heart.

1950’s: Life-Saving Advances in Pacemaker Technology

For the first time in history, a heart is returned to a steady rhythm by an external defibrillator in a study funded by the AHA in 1956.

A year later, Dr. William Weirich implants the first battery-operated, wearable pacemaker. This AHA funded success acts as a catalyst for the development of the present-day pacemakers and pacemaker implant surgery.

1960-1961: Heart Valves, CPR, and Microsurgery

In 1960, Dr. Albert Starr and Lowell Edwards received support from the AHA to develop the mechanical heart valve and allows for the first artificial heart valve replacement. The Starr-Edwards valve, as well as the artificial heart valve, are still used today.

The AHA continues to make an impact in 1961 when a funded research project is reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association about the effectiveness of CPR in saving lives after cardiac arrest.

Another success of 1961 was the first microsurgery, conducted by Dr. Julius Jacobson, which paved the way for modern-day coronary artery surgery, neurosurgery, and many other procedures that went on to save hundreds of thousands of lives.

2000’s: A Breath of Fresh Air

In 2008, AHA funded research shows that breath is not required for CPR and a statement is issued recommending that bystanders skip mouth-to-mouth and go straight to Hands-Only CPR in case of emergencies.

AHA helps lead the way in the passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. This resulted in major regulations, bans, and label requirements that created a new wave of education on the dangers of smoking tobacco in younger generations.

2010’s: Funding for the Future

This decade starts off with a major goal announcement from the AHA: Improving cardiovascular health in Americans by 20% by 2020 with a big emphasis on prevention.

The AHA announces a major goal to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke by 20 percent by 2020. Prevention is a major focus of the 2020 Impact Goal.

To further their efforts, the AHA partnered with Verily and AstraZeneca to create One Brave Idea, a research initiative that would award $75 million to one research team working towards finding a cure to heart disease.

2020’s: A New Decade of Innovation and Care

The AHA has been an invaluable part of the medical field not only for its innovation in cardiac research but also for its initiatives on improving human health overall. Now in the early part of a new decade, we look forward to a future filled with hope and further innovation as this volunteer organization continues to make waves in health awareness.

Mission Search is a proud supporter of the AHA and like them, our dedication is to connect healthcare talent with the best opportunities possible to help foster a better system of healthcare. For more information about the AHA, visit

Back To Top