The Johns Hopkins Gazette: May 13, 2002
May 13, 2002
VOL. 31, NO. 34


Victor McKusick to Receive National Medal of Science

By Joanna Downer
Johns Hopkins Medicine
Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

Victor A. McKusick (pictured at right), University Professor of Medical Genetics at the School of Medicine and a physician-scientist widely acknowledged as the father of genetic medicine, is to receive a National Medal of Science from President George W. Bush at White House ceremonies. The date has not been set.

The highest scientific honor in the United States, the National Medal of Science was established in 1959 and first given out in 1962 to recognize lifelong contributors in the life and physical sciences, social sciences and engineering. Annually, recipients are nominated by their peers and selected by a 12-person committee named by the president.

"I feel privileged and grateful for this wonderful honor," says McKusick, for whom the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine was named in 1999. "This is a recognition not just of my contributions but also those of colleagues and students over the years."

McKusick began his career by studying heart defects but rapidly developed an interest in the inherited components of disease. In 1957 McKusick founded the Division of Medical Genetics at Johns Hopkins and, in 1966, created the first edition of the genetic reference "Mendelian Inheritance in Man," a compilation of inherited disease genes that continues to grow. Both a scientist and a prominent clinician, McKusick was the William Osler Professor of Medicine and physician-in-chief of The Johns Hopkins Hospital from 1973 until 1985.

"Victor McKusick is a Hopkins legend--a master clinician, scientist, medical historian, teacher and colleague," says Edward Miller, dean of the School of Medicine. "It is so right that he has been honored by the nation for his groundbreaking work and devotion to the advancement of knowledge and human health."

Over the course of his career, McKusick has led the world in searching for, identifying and mapping genes responsible for inherited conditions such as Marfan syndrome and dwarfism. His studies of genetic disorders in the Amish uncovered previously unrecognized inherited conditions and served as a model for studies in similar populations in other parts of the world. As early as 1969, he proposed mapping the human genome, a feat accomplished by two research teams, in draft form, in February 2001.

Says Aravinda Chakravarti, director of the McKusick-Nathans Institute, "Victor's vision is reflected in his early recognition of the inherent value to medicine of mapping the human genome. His contributions to the practice of genetics in medicine are thus seminal, phenomenal and ageless."

Five other Johns Hopkins faculty members have received the National Medal of Science: Nobel laureate Daniel Nathans (1993), who also is honored in the naming of the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine, Walter Elsasser (1987), Donald A. Henderson (1986), Vernon B. Mountcastle (1986) and Abel Wolman (1974).