Public Release: 

Perls to receive GSA's 2016 Joseph T. Freeman Award

The Gerontological Society of America

The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) -- the nation's largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to the field of aging -- has chosen Thomas T. Perls, MD, MPH, FACP, of the Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center as the recipient of the 2016 of the Joseph T. Freeman Award.

This honor, given annually, is a lectureship in geriatrics and is awarded to a prominent physician in the field of aging -- both in research and practice -- who is a member of the Society's Health Sciences section.

The award presentation will take place at GSA's 2016 Annual Scientific Meeting, which will be held from November 16 to 20 in New Orleans, Louisiana. This conference is organized to foster interdisciplinary collaboration among researchers, educators, and practitioners who specialize in the study of the aging process. Visit http://www.geron.org/2016 for further details.

The Joseph T. Freeman Award was established in 1977 through a bequest from a patient's estate as a tribute to a leading physician and one of the Society's distinguished members and past presidents. The recipient traditionally presents a lecture at the next Annual Scientific Meeting; in 2017, the lecture will take place in July at the GSA-hosted World Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics in San Francisco, California.

Perls is a professor of medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine. He received his geriatrics training at both Mount Royal Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, and Harvard Medical School, and obtained his master's degree in public health at Harvard. He is a fellow of the American College of Physicians. Perls also is a senior physician in geriatrics and cares for patients at Boston Medical Center, the primary teaching hospital for the School of Medicine.

In 1995, he began and continues to direct the longest running and largest study of centenarians, their siblings and offspring in the world, the New England Centenarian Study. This study includes more than 500 semi-supercentenarians (ages 105 to 109 years) and 150 supercentenarians (ages 110 to119 years). Additionally, he is the principal investigator of the Boston study center of the National Institute on Aging-funded multi-center Long Life Family Study, a longitudinal study, established in 2006, of nearly 5,000 participants belonging to ~550 families demonstrating rare clustering for survival to extreme old age.

Key published findings from Perls and his colleagues include:

  • Exceptional longevity runs strongly in families;
  • Among centenarians, disability is typically compressed towards at least their early- to mid-nineties;
  • With even older ages of survival, e.g., age 105+ years, morbidity is also compressed towards the end of these exceptionally long lives;
  • The genetic influence upon survival increases with older and older ages of survival beyond the nonagenarian years;
  • This genetic influence probably involves many genetic variants with individually modest effects, but as a group, they have a strong effect;
  • But for some rare exceptions, centenarians have just as many disease-associated genetic variants as the average population

Perls sits on the editorial boards of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society and The Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, and he is a federal advisory board member for the National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations of the U.S. Census Bureau. He is also a vocal critic of the anti-aging industry, particularly its medical and legal misuse of growth hormone, testosterone, and other drugs for "anti-aging," and has published extensively on the subject as well as testified before the U.S. Congress. He is the author of two educational websites, the Living to 100 life expectancy calculator (http://www.livingto100.com) and http://www.hghwatch.com.

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The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) is the nation's oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. The principal mission of the Society -- and its 5,500+ members -- is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers, and the general public. GSA's structure also includes a policy institute, the National Academy on an Aging Society, and an educational branch, the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education.

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