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Victor Almon McKusick

Victor Almon McKusick
Date: 1990
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 41.5 x 35.5 in.
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Victor Almon McKusick


McKusick, a former cardiologist at Johns Hopkins who was considered a founding father of the field of medical genetics, was born in Parkman, Maine. He attended Tufts University and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, receiving his M.D. in 1946.

After joining the faculty of the School of Medicine in 1946 as a cardiologist, McKusick began studying Marfan syndrome and became interested in the field of medical genetics. He continued to make contributions to cardiology, such as adapting sound spectroscopy for analysis of heart sounds and publishing a unique catalog of heart sounds and murmurs in 1958.

McKusick served as executive chief of the cardiovascular unit at Baltimore Marine Hospital from 1948 to 1950 while progressing through the ranks in the Johns Hopkins department of medicine. He also held joint professorships in epidemiology in the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health and in biology at The Johns Hopkins University. In 1957, he founded the division of medical genetics, which he headed until 1973, when he became the William Osler Professor and chairman of the department of medicine and physician in chief of The Johns Hopkins Hospital. He held these posts until 1985, when he was named University Professor of Medical Genetics.

McKusick played a large part in introducing the field of medical genetics into the mainstream of academic medicine. He studied the whole range of inherited human disorders, then concentrated on mapping the location of genes on chromosomes and relating gene location to human disease. In 1966, he published the first edition of Mendelian Inheritance in Man (known as OMIM in its present online version), the definitive source of information on human genes and genetic disorders.

Showered with scores of national and international prizes, honorary doctorates and accolades during a professional career spanning more than sixty years spent entirely at Johns Hopkins, he was the recipient of the 1997 Albert Lasker Award for Special Achievement in Medical Science, the 2001 National Medal of Science, and the 2008 Japan Price in Medical Genomics and Genetics. He was the founding president in 1988 of the Human Genome Organization, an international group whose goal is to promote mapping and sequencing of the entire human genome, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.