Dr. Williams, who died this week at his home in Rochester, NY, age 89, was the second director of the National Institute on Aging, and was in charge of the federal government’s investment in the science of aging when our Alliance for Aging Research was established in 1986. Succeeding the legendary Dr. Robert Butler, the founding Director of the NIA, Frank had big shoes to fill. And in his own earnest, compassionate, and self-effacing way he filled those shoes very well.
Frank welcomed the formation of the Alliance and recognized the benefit of a citizen advocacy organization that cared as much about improving geriatric care and advancing science to extend health during old age. He led the nation’s premier agency for studying aging and geriatric medicine when it was still common for directors of the National Institutes of Health to quietly but effectively build bridges to policymakers to make their case for investing in medical research.
It was his idea for the Alliance to gather together scores of advocacy groups for separate diseases to make a yearly statement about aging as the common risk factor for nearly every chronic disease you can name. That document provided many congressional staffers and Members with quick facts on aging and health to drive effective policy for over 20 years.
After retiring from the NIA, Frank continued to pioneer innovative programs to deliver better health care in his adopted hometown of Rochester, NY. He also served as a medical director for our “cousin” organization the American Federation for Aging Research.
Rest in peace, Dr. Frank Williams.