Letter from Victor A. McKusick to Margaret Hawkins
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1957-08-21 (August 21, 1957)
McKusick, Victor A.
Original Repository: Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives. Victor Almon McKusick Collection
Reproduced with permission of Anne B. McKusick.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
From "Musical Murmurs" to Medical Genetics, 1945-1960
August 21, 1957
Dear Miss Hawkins,
This is in confirmation of our conversations on the evening of August 15. I am now in a position to make you a definite offer.
The job in question is that of Pedigree-tracer ("pedigree supervisor" might be an appropriate designation eventually)
in the Division of Medical Genetics of the Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. There will
be a faculty appointment of assistant in medicine associated with the job in the beginning. (This is, of course, subject to
the approval of Dr. A. M. Harvey and the Advisory Board of the Medical School, but no difficulty is anticipated.) The beginning
salary will be $4800. per annum. The position will provide you with the usual fringe benefits of a faculty appointment in
a private university; such as one month's vacation.
You have expressed an interest in giving the job a one-year's trial; I would like to take you on with a similar agreement,
namely, that if the arrangement is not mutually satisfactory it can terminate at the end of the year on the request of either
If the arrangement is satisfactory, you can plan to get further study, beginning the second year, and work part-time in the
same capacity in the Division of Medical Genetics. Candidature for M.S. from the Department of Biology using a human genetics
problem for your thesis would be practicable, I believe.
I am in charge of the teaching of Preventive Medicine in the Medical School. More accurately stated, Preventive Medicine is
to be taught in the future by a cooperative effort between the Departments of Medicine and Pediatrics. I am in charge of the
Department of Medicine's contribution to this joint effort; Dr. Barton Childs, who as you probably know is much interested
in Medical Genetics, is the Pediatrics representative. This responsibility has only recently been thrust upon us and it is
undecided what the precise nature of the instruction will be during the coming year. We have available to us Thursday and
Saturday mornings 9-12. I have proposed use of Thursday morning for a Family Clinic in the Medicine I area. This has not been
received enthusiastically in all quarters, so that what if anything will be done this first year is undecided.
I plan to see that you have at least a small office in the present Medicine I area. Clerical assistance will be available
to you for correspondence and for typing of the pedigree information you collect.
The primary job will consist of collective extensive information on members of families of persons with various hereditary
diseases. No particular ethno-socio-economic stratum will be picked out for particular study; however, because of the economic
effects of chronic illness due to hereditary disease there will be a moderate preponderance of poorer classes. The job will
necessitate the use of a car, which you can provide, I understand, and for which you will be reimbursed on a mileage basis.
The families studied may be residing anywhere in the state; however, the majority will be in the metropolitan area of the
I want to point out that the main function of this position is research; teaching is a secondary function for this first year.
I envisage that in the future the two functions will be equal since at that time you will be charge of pedigree-tracing, will
be responsible for the tracing done by the various students and trainees in the Division, and will teach them the techniques
you will have learned. It is my intention that at least eventually your status would be that of collaborator on research problems.
We would hope that you would derive pleasure from seeing worthwhile research in medical genetics turned out, as well as from
learning more about an intellectually stimulating field which is rapidly blossoming forth at the moment.
In addition to basic information on all close relatives (birthdate, date of death, residence, medical information, etc.),
you will be expected to search out and abstract pertinent hospital and physicians' records, obtain death certificates,
etc. It will, of course, be necessary to brief you on the particular type of medical information desired in each case. The
best approach for obtaining the rapport and cooperation of the family will need to be carefully considered in each instance.
Dr. Raymond Pearl collected extensive family date 30-40 years ago. These data, which have laid fallow all these years, I hope
to get hold of and as the opportunity permits bring up to date with useful results.
In some instances collection of urine or blood samples from members of families will be part of the job. Eventually it would
be my plan to make the pedigree-tracing facilities of this Division available to members of the Department of Medicine with
pedigrees to be traced. However, the understanding would be that I would have to give the OK to taking on of such work.
Victor A. McKusick, M.D.
Associate Professor of Medicine
Chief, Division of Medical Genetics
P.S. Enclosed are:
1) some genetics reprints. Perhaps you can get hold of any monograph entitled Heritable Disorders of Connective Tissue.
2) a list of some pedigrees which I am anxious to get traced in the near future.