MacArthur Fellows Program

D. Holmes Morton

Country Doctor and Research Physician | Class of 2006

Working tirelessly with rural communities to revolutionize service, research, prescriptions, and outcomes for clinical treatment of rare genetic diseases.

Country Doctor and Research Physician
Clinic for Special Children
Strasburg, Pennsylvania
55 at time of award
Published September 1, 2006

About D. Holmes' Work

D. Holmes Morton is a unique amalgam of country doctor and research physician whose model for diagnosis and treatment of hereditary metabolic disease is redefining research, prescriptions, and outcomes in the field of pediatric genetics. From his Clinic for Special Children, a primary care facility in a farming community in Strasburg, Pennsylvania, Morton treats Amish and Mennonite children afflicted with genetic diseases. He has successfully reduced child mortality in this isolated community by combining state-of-the-art medical care with dedicated, personal attention and extensive follow-though. At its inception, the Clinic focused on the treatment of two rare genetic disorders, Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD), which often leads to coma or mental retardation, and Glutaric Aciduria Type 1, which produces a form of injury commonly mistaken for cerebral palsy and requires immediate diagnosis and treatment to prevent irreversible brain damage. His research findings have influenced the work of many in the mainstream medical community. Indeed, a number of the disorders Morton treats cluster in populations in Europe and in the Middle East, and his Clinic has become an international resource for diagnosis and treatment. Currently, Morton and his staff have begun systematically to investigate and treat genentically based maladies not specifically concentrated in Amish and Mennonite communities, including autism, seizure disorders, and mental retardation, with the aim of understanding better how these more common ailments present in highly isolated groups. In demonstrating the effectiveness and feasibility of a specialized model of clinical care for treatment of rare diseases, Morton has expanded the possibilities for customized medicine in the service of small communities while simultaneously advancing mainstream modern medical discovery.


D. Holmes Morton completed an Individualized Degree Program at Trinity College in 1979, received an M.D. (1983) from Harvard Medical School, and completed his residency at Children’s Hospital in Boston. He also conducted biochemical genetics research at Johns Hopkins University and at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He has been the director of the Clinic for Special Children since he co-founded the organization with his wife in 1989. Morton’s articles have appeared in such publications as Nature Genetics, the American Journal of Medical Genetics, and Pediatrics.

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Please credit: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

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