Richard Suzman passed through Oxford and Harvard briefly on his way to that National Institute of Aging (NIA) at NIH. At NIA he has been both strategic in developing long term research agendas on aging as well as tactical in getting the funding and the right people to do the research. As a result he has become a national and international leader in aging research.
Richard Suzman recognized long before most others the importance of having harmonized population surveys that could be used to address multiple research questions in both national and international contexts. The U.S. Health and Retirement Survey, which he nurtured, funded and critiqued, grew into a family of surveys that now covers more than half of the world’s population. These surveys allow researchers to recognize which aging trends are fundamental across many cultures and which are unique. They also allow governments and people from different countries to learn from each other how to age more successfully.
To make the barriers to entry into aging research lower he has promoted a digital library of aging research and new research products such as CDs that he distributes in developing countries like M&Ms. He has continuously encouraged new generations of young researchers to enter the field; he has also focused on the vanguard of researchers in developing countries who will now be ready for the inexorable aging of their own countries.
For the best research Dr. Suzman is a relentless intellectual promoter, distributing the results widely to guarantee that their contributions would inform future research. He is, however, as tenacious in his criticisms as he is in his praise. Aging research today is more vibrant, more imaginative and progressing faster than in the past because of Dr. Suzman’s intellectual curiosity, his impatience and his humor.