Braunwald was born to Jewish parents Wilhelm Braunwald and Clara Wallach in Vienna. Braunwald was inspired to pursue a career in cardiology after practicing in the Bellevue Cardiology Clinic, under Ludwig Eichna, during his time as a medical student at New York University. He also attended several Cardiology courses in Mexico City, at the Instituto Ignacio Chavez. He always thought that the Mexican School of Cardiology was above any other. "We have the technology but they have the practice. The best book of cardiology is the patient itself," he always argued.
After being at the National Institutes of Health, he was then recruited to the University of California, San Diego where from 1968-1972 he was the founding Chair of the Department of Medicine (and he brought John Ross, Jr. with him to be the founding Chief of Cardiology). He has since been at the Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard University, in Boston, MA.
In 1966, he was awarded the Jacobi Medallion by the Mount Sinai Alumni (Mount Sinai Hospital) "for distinguished achievement in the field of medicine or extraordinary service to the Hospital, the School, or the Alumni."
In 2004, Braunwald became the inaugural winner of the Libin/AHFMR Prize for Excellence in Cardiovascular Research.
In 2009, he was chairman of a policy group that severely limited outside pay for Harvard physicians.
On May 5, 2010, he received an honorary degree from the University of Rochester. On October 26, 2013, he received a degree honoris causa from the University of Salerno, heir of the ancient Schola Medica Salernitana.
Braunwald has over 1000 publications in peer-reviewed journals. His work has dramatically expanded knowledge of heart disease in the area of congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, and valvular heart disease. He is the editor of the premier cardiology textbook, Braunwald's Heart Disease, which is now in its 10th edition. Dr. Braunwald was instrumental in running the TIMI (Thrombolysis in Myocardial Infarction) studies, which developed the concepts of thrombosis superimposed on atherosclerosis as the pathological bases for acute myocardial infarction.
Braunwald's lab was the setting for the infamous case of John Darsee, wherein the former thought Darsee was brilliant. Young fellow researchers in the laboratory caught Darsee fabricating results. Braunwald denied knowledge of this academic misconduct despite two earlier accusations and his own internal investigation which found "no misleading information".
- Braunwald, E (February 2001). "Nina Starr Braunwald: some reflections on the first woman heart surgeon.". The Annals of thoracic surgery 71 (2 Suppl): S6–7. PMID 11235772.
- The Mount Sinai Alumni
- "Canadian Journal of Cardiology - Braunwald Libin/AHFMR Prize announcement". Retrieved December 23, 2008.
- Wilson, Duff (January 3, 2010). "Harvard Teaching Hospitals Cap Outside Pay". The New York Times. Retrieved May 2, 2010.
- Degree honoris causa from the University of Salerno Retrieved October 26, 2013
- Libby, Peter; Bonnow, Robert; Mann, Douglas; Zipes, Douglas (2007). Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine.
- "Dishonesty in Medical Research" (PDF).