History of the American Heart Association
The Early Days
A pioneering group of physicians and social workers formed the first Association for the Prevention and Relief of Heart Disease in New York City in 1915. They were concerned about the lack of heart disease information. At that time, heart disease patients were considered doomed, limited to complete bed rest. So these physicians conducted studies in New York City and Boston to find out whether heart disease patients could safely return to work. Similar groups in Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago evolved into heart associations in the 1920s.
Interest spread widely in other cities across the United States and Canada. Recognizing the need for a national organization to share research findings and promote further study, six cardiologists representing several groups founded the American Heart Association in 1924. The founding members were Drs. Lewis A. Conner and Robert H. Halsey of New York; Paul D. White of Boston; Joseph Sailer of Philadelphia; Robert B. Preble of Chicago; and Hugh D. McCulloch of St. Louis. Drs. James B. Herrick of Chicago and William S. Thayer of Baltimore were also instrumental in the early planning. Dr. White, president of AHA in 1941, once described the early years as a time of "almost unbelievable ignorance" about heart disease. The early efforts of the American Heart Association to overcome that ignorance included enlisting help from hundreds, then thousands, of physicians and scientists.