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The Upside of Aging: How Long Life Is Changing the World of Health, Work, Innovation, Policy and Purpose by Paul Irving

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Chapter 3 The Bold New World of Healthy Aging

Freda Lewis-Hall

Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, Pfizer Inc

Breakthroughs from the world’s medical labs will help narrow the gap between our healthiest days and the end of our lives, with a medical trifecta—data and diagnostics, new medicines and vaccines, and a surgery revolution—to help deliver the full promise of healthy aging.

My father, Harvey Lewis, at 95 is sharp and spry. Watching him enjoy life with family and friends brings me immense joy but also reminds me that he’s lived nearly twice as long as my mother, Jeannette, who died in her early fifties, cut down by a sudden stroke. The day remains seared in our family’s collective memory.

It was a typical Maryland summer’s night, hot, and heavy with the Chesapeake damp. I was home from my first year at medical school. One moment she was there, happy about my plans for career and marriage. The next moment, she was gone. My mother’s death sent our family reeling into a period of shock and despair that nearly led me to quit medical school.

Today, as a physician and biopharmaceutical executive, I have a ringside seat to the march of medical progress that is working to unlock the secrets to a long life, like my father’s, and understand what cuts some lives, like my mother’s, all too short. Thanks to these medical advances and public health successes, members of my generation, the baby boomers, now have a good chance of exceeding the life expectancy predicted ...

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