University of Minnesota

Founding of the National Heart Institute’s Advisory Council, 1948

The first meeting of the National Heart Institute’s Advisory Heart Council was held on September 8, 1948, and presided over by Surgeon General Leonard Scheele, attended by council members: Dr. C.A. Elberhjem, Tinsley Harrison, T. Duckett Jones, Irvine Page, Paul Dudley White, Mrs. Mary and Albert Lasker, Burrell Raulsten and representatives of the Navy, the Army, the Veterans Administration. Officials of NIH included C.J. Van Slyke, Director of the National Heart Institute, and Joseph Mountin, associate chief of the USPHS Bureau of State Services (the official who initiated the Framingham Study).

Dr. Scheele congratulated Council members for their sacrifice by joining the Heart Council, introduced Mary Lasker as co-founder of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation for Education in Medical Research, and described the roles of all participants.

Dr. Scheele then reviewed the history of the Public Health Service since 1798, as decreed by President John Adams and in legislative Acts for the relief of sick and disabled seamen and establishment of the Public Health Service and its hospitals. Scheele described the National Cancer Act in 1937 and the transfer of the Public Health Service from the Treasury Department to the Federal Security Administration.

Dr. R.E. Dyer, Director of NIH, recounted the history of the Institutes, having started in a laboratory of the Marine Hospital on Staten Island in 1887. He pointed out that the role of the Advisory Heart Council was to “ensure the absolute freedom of scientific research and further, to review the entire field of research to discover areas for heart research not now covered, and then to stimulate work in those areas.

The authorizing legislation for the Public Health Service was Public Law 14, of the 78th Congress, for establishment of a National Advisory Health Council with funds to assist universities, hospitals, laboratories, institutions and individuals in advancing medical and scientific knowledge. He described the make-up of the National Advisory Cancer Council and of the National Advisory Heart Council.

The National Heart Act of 1948 transferred responsibility for recommendations on grant applications from the National Advisory Health Council to the National Advisory Heart Council and requested that the Council continue the present pattern of having various study sections review the applications and make recommendations through the Council.

Dr. Van Slyke of the new Heart Institute described the order of the Surgeon General that would establish the Heart Institute and announced the appointment of Boston cardiologist Paul Dudley White as executive director of the Advisory Council. White would be working part-time from his office in Boston and coming to Washington as needed. “The Council unanimously approved a motion that its enthusiastic congratulations be extended to the Surgeon General and to Dr. White for such an arrangement.”

Then Dr. Mountin pointed out the control activities of the Heart Program under the Heart Act in “what might be called the focal point or nerve center of the total Heart Program” in the National Heart Institute. “Instead of functioning as an entity unto itself, the Institute will utilize other units of the agency to carry out under the general direction of the Institute certain phases of the program.” Dr. Mountin described the funds available, $250,000, for allocations to the 48 states and 3 territories to start programs at once on field studies and demonstrations in heart and vascular diseases.

The Council approved the motion that T. Duckett Jones be made Chairman of the Heart Council Committee on Cardiovascular Disease Control and “…establish demonstration studies in the state Heart Disease Control Programs.”

There was a major discussion of how research grants are handled (rather informally at the outset), and discussion of pending research grant applications. An official grant procedure was authorized to include overhead allowances of 8%, describing a system for voting on grant applications, authorizing Council action between meetings, adjustment of grant periods and rebudgeting, specific funds for hospitalization of research patients, along with other use of research funds and a budget for training. There followed a request for Council members to set down their thoughts on how an information center at the Heart Institute should function.

The second meeting, held December 10-11, 1948, elected Leonard Scheele Chairman for another period, T. Duckett Jones announced Heart Disease Control grants, and the chair announced the addition of Burt Boone to coordinate matters between the Advisory Heart Council and the Heart Institute and Felix Moore as statistical analyst. Joseph Mountin requested that there be developed a Manual of Practice for the control operations, particularly in rural communities.

The first grants were assigned to State Health Departments of California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York, mainly having to do with clinics and cardiac control. Funds limited to $1 million per institution were allocated for building cardiovascular research centers, giving preference to institutions and communities where there was already research leadership.

[All pretty dull but important stuff at the origins of U.S. national policy for CVD research and control. (Henry Blackburn)]


National Advisory Heart Council Meeting Minutes, September 8, 1948. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Archive.