J. Frederic Mushinski

J. Frederic MushinskiDr. Fred Mushinski died on December 18, 2014, in Bethesda, MD, after a battle with colon cancer. He was 76.

Mushinski grew up in Beaver Falls, PA. When Fred was 15, after his father’s death, his family moved to Bethesda, joining his grandmother and three aunts, all registered nurses.

Medicine attracted him from the start. At St. Mark’s, he was a three-year member of the Scientific Society, serving as its secretary, and he was active in Science Department chair Frederic Avis’ Biological Research Society. “Doc” Avis, a renowned biology educator and author of high school textbooks, was extremely supportive, recalled Mushinski, who had “very fond memories” of his time at St. Mark’s. “I was very lucky to be able to work with Fred Avis,” he said. “I would do extra work with him after class, and I was his lab assistant. It was a wonderful experience.” Other St. Mark’s teachers, such as chemistry master Tom Wales, also energized Mushinski’s lifelong interest in the sciences. Still, Fred’s activities at St. Mark’s were genuinely eclectic. He was a member of the 10-1 soccer squad that won the Private School League title in 1954 and he was manager of varsity baseball. He sang in the choir, was involved with the annual musical comedy, and appeared in the 1955 Dramatic Club production of Bulwer-Lytton’s Richelieu. In the latter, his performance as the Brother Joseph, the Cardinal’s confidante, was described as “sweetly sinister.” Through it all, he regularly attained St. Mark’s Scholar status and was elected to the Cum Laude Society.

Fred Mushinski attended Yale on one of the first General Motors Scholarships, receiving his degree in chemistry in 1959. Earning his M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1963, he completed an internship and fellowship in the department of medicine at Duke University Medical Center before joining the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a division of the National Institute of Health (NIH) as a research associate in 1965.

It was in the NCI lab that Mushinski met a staff biologist named Elizabeth “Betty” Bridges. The two married in 1971 and had a combined 87 years of NIH service when they retired early in 2009. They shared a common interest in protein expression and chromosomal translocation, as well as a love of music, especially opera.

Mushinski was a member of the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. He also spent a year at the Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine in Göttingen, Germany, and was a research professor in the molecular and cell biology program at the University of Maryland. At the NCI, he became a principal investigator in the Laboratory of Genetics, which became the Laboratory of Cancer Biology and Genetics.

For 44 years, Fred Mushinski conducted extensive research into the molecular and genetic origins of cancer. Dr. Mushinski’s groundbreaking efforts included work on the molecular and genetic mechanisms responsible for neoplastic transformation, and the use of genetic models to predict cancers and their progress. He retired in 2009 as chief of the Cancer Institute’s Molecular Genetics Section.

A lover of music, in general, and opera, in particular, he was a supporter of and active volunteer at the Wolf Trap Center for the Performing Arts in Virginia. In retirement, he continued his involvement with Wolf Trap. He also volunteered at the NIH, writing papers, doing experiments, and taking an active interest in ongoing cancer research, even while facing the challenge of his own personal experience with cancer.

In addition to his wife, Mushinski is survived by two sisters, Mary M. Fetsch and Margaret M. Ochs.

This obituary originally ran in St. Mark’s magazine, and we reprint it here with their kind permission.