The Ewald W. Busse Research Awards were presented at the 20th IAGG World Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics in Seoul, Korea, June 25, 2013 and honored two individuals for their work. These awards are presented every four years during the World Congress in recognition of significant and continuing contributions to aging research. One award recognizes a scientist from the Social/Behavioral Sciences; the other, a scientist from the Biomedical Sciences. These awards are supported from an endowment made by Gerontology International in honor of Ewald W. Busse, M.D., past president of the International Association of Gerontology and founding director of the Duke Aging Center. This endowment is administered by the Duke University Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development and the recipients are selected by a jury of scientists chaired by Aging Center Director, Harvey Jay Cohen, MD.
This year’s awards were presented by Dr. Cohen to Becca R. Levy. PhD (pictured left), Director of the Social and Behavioral Science Division and an Associate Professor at Yale University School of Public Health for her work in the Social and Behavioral Sciences, with her lecture titled “Aging Self-Stereotypes: Obstacle or Pathway to Health?”; and to Thomas T. Perls, MD (pictured below), MPH, Professor of Medicine and Director of the New England Centenarian Study, of Boston University School of Medicine, for his work in the Biomedical Sciences and his lecture was titled “Human Exceptional Longevity”.
Dr. Levy's research explores psychosocial factors that influence elders’ cognitive and physical functioning, as well as their longevity. She is credited with creating a field of study that focuses on how positive and negative age stereotypes, which are assimilated from the culture, can have beneficial and adverse effects, respectively, on the health of older individuals.
Dr. Perls and his multidisciplinary group of colleagues have found that centenarians are increasingly homogeneous with older and older ages and more likely to have discoverable etiologic factors in common. Beyond the age of 107 years, the centenarians appear to prove Jim Fries' "Compression of Morbidity" hypothesis. Whereas genetic variation appears to explain approximately 30% of the variation in how old and how well people age up through their late eighties, the genetic component, composed of many common and rare genetic variants becomes increasingly important with older and older ages of survival, particularly beyond the age of 105 years.
The Board of Directors of Gerontology International recognized Dr. Busse for his outstanding contributions to gerontological research by establishing these awards. Dr. Busse, J. P. Gibbons Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry, Dean Emeritus of Medical and Allied Health Education, was founding Director of the Duke Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development (1957-70), and was chairman of the Duke Department of Psychiatry from 1953-1974. He received numerous research and professional awards including the Strecker Award, 1967; Kleemeier Award, 1968; Menninger Award, 1971; Brookdale Award in 1982; the Sandoz Award in 1983; and the President’s Medallion for Gerontological Research (IAG, Budapest), 1993. Dr. Busse served as president of the American Psychiatric Society, the American Geriatrics Society, The Gerontological Society of America, and the International Association of Gerontology. Dr. Busse passed away on March 7, 2004.