Stanley J. Sarnoff, a Princeton and Johns Hopkins Medical School graduate, and the son of a prominent surgeon, initially followed in his father's steps, but soon found his calling in research of the heart and its systems. Many of his early papers were based on his observations in the operating room during his early surgical training with his father. During his lifetime, he published more than 200 papers and developed 60 patented devices, including the auto-injector, the ancestor of today's Epi-Pen. To spread his knowledge and good fortune, and to perpetuate the essential mentor-trainee experience, he established this Foundation, originally called The Stanley J. Sarnoff for Cardiovascular Science, Inc.
After his training, Sarnoff spent a dozen years at the Harvard School of Public Health. He continued as Chief of the Laboratory of Cardiovascular Physiology at the National Institutes of Health. It was there that he published some of his best-known research papers. He and his colleagues and trainees published much of the ground-breaking research in cardiovascular physiology.
After leaving NIH, Sarnoff focused on his company, Survival Technology, Inc. ("STI"), which manufactured, most famously, his auto-injectors. Developed first to administer a nerve gas antidote for use by the military, he applied them as a way to ward off sudden death from a heart attack before the patient could be treated by a medical team. The company thrived. STI traded on the NASDAQ. It was acquired in 1996.
STI advanced the treatment of medical emergencies through applied research. As STI prospered financially, Sarnoff conceived of the idea of applying some of his fortune to creating opportunities for medical students to train in the laboratory. He based his idea on the positive experience of training Myron Weisfeldt, then a medical student, in his lab at NIH. Dr. Weisfeldt now serves as Chief of Medicine at Johns Hopkins and credits Dr. Sarnoff with much of his success.
In 1979, Dr. Sarnoff funded the first Sarnoff Fellow. The plan was simple: the medical student would leave school for one year, work in the laboratory of a prominent cardiovascular scientist, conducting his own research, participate as if an independent researcher, and, at the end, report his findings to his mentors. At what became the first of many annual meetings, the new Fellows gathered, with their mentors and Dr. Sarnoff, at a meeting in Washington, DC, to discuss their research experiences. The year was intended to expose the students to the rewards of scientific research, as well as a way to expand their thinking in general. Later, the Foundation became the model for the American Heart Association Student Research Scholarship Program and the Fellowship Programs sponsored by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the National Institutes of Health.
Every year, an annual meeting is held in Washington, DC, where the Sarnoff Fellows present their research to their mentors. Stanley Sarnoff died in 1990, awaiting a heart transplant. His colleagues and trainees have continued the mission of the Foundation since then.
In 1992, a Scientific Committee was established, consisting of sponsors, preceptors, current and former Sarnoff Fellows, and supporters of the Foundation's mission from the academic community. Its primary charge was to select Fellows and Scholars and to oversee each Fellow's year in the lab. Later, a Scholar program was established, giving former Sarnoff Fellows funding to pursue their post-doctoral research careers.
In the seventeen years since Stanley Sarnoff's death, many Fellows have served as representatives on the Foundation's Boards and Committees. Some Sarnoff alumni have participated as Sponsors and Preceptors to the younger Fellows.
Since its inception, the Foundation has funded more than 300 Fellows and 30 Scholars.