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Dr. Doris Honig Merritt





Year of Birth / Death

b. 1923


Medical School

The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences


Geography

LOCATION
Maryland
LOCATION
Indiana


Career Path

Administration: Medical school deans
Pediatric medicine
Dr. Doris Honig Merritt



Milestones

YEAR
1978
ACHIEVEMENT
Dr. Doris H. Merritt was the first woman to chair the Board of Regents for the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, where she was instrumental in establishing the library’s electronic information system.


Inspiration

I was being discharged from the U.S. Navy after World War II and wanted an interesting and useful profession that would allow me to live independently.



Biography

Doris Honig Merritt, M.D., the first woman to chair the Board of Regents for the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, helped establish the Library's electronic information system in 1978. During her career in university administration, Dr. Merritt coined the term "grantsmanship" to describe the art of procuring grants, and herself brought millions of dollars in grants to the Indiana University School of Medicine and the Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis.

As World War II was coming to a close in the mid 1940s, so was young Doris Merritt's two-year stint in the Navy Officer Corps. As she looked for an interesting job alternative, an interesting and useful profession that would give her some measure of financial independence, she decided on medicine. She had graduated cum laude with a Phi Beta Kappa in English literature from Hunter College of the University of the City of New York in 1944, and had to take pre-medical courses from 1946 to 1948 before she was accepted into medical school at The George Washington University School of Medicine. When she earned her doctor of medicine in 1952, she and her physician husband Donald Merritt went to Duke University for residencies—she in pediatrics, he in internal medicine. She was an assistant resident in pediatrics at Duke University from 1954 to 1955, and a fellow in pediatrics from 1955 to 1956.

Dr. Doris Merritt came to be a high-powered fundraiser for academic medicine almost by accident. "I was introduced to administration simply by following my husband, which women were expected to do then. " When her husband took a position at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland in 1957, Dr. Doris Merritt didn't find work in pediatrics, her specialty. Instead, she found a new career. Dr. Merritt took a position as an executive secretary for the Division of Research Grants at the National Institutes of Health. Through this introduction to grants work, Dr. Merritt realized she could serve as an effective facilitator, and that she loved to watch the progress of different projects. She devoted the next forty years to "grantsmanship"—a term she coined in the 1960s to describe successful approaches to fundraising for research.

In 1961 Dr. Merritt accompanied her husband to the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, where she was named director of medical research grants and contracts. Instead of reviewing grants applications as she had done at the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Merritt directed applications. She was very successful: two of the project grants received by Indiana University School of Medicine (IUSM) that Dr. Merritt secured in her first year as director were still ongoing more than thirty-five years later.

The following year, when Dr. Merritt became assistant dean for medical research at Indiana University School of Medicine, she was one of the first women in the United States to be assistant dean of a coeducational medical school. Between 1961 and 1978, Dr. Merritt was instrumental in bringing $55 million in new construction grants to the Indianapolis campus. From 1961 to 1997, under her guidance, IUSM research dollars grew from $1.8 million to nearly $105 million.

In 1978, Dr. Merritt returned to Bethesda and was appointed special assistant to the director of the National Institutes of Health for research training and research resources. In 1978 she was the first woman to chair the National Library of Medicine Board of Regents, Dr. Merritt helped create the library's electronic information system. In 1986 she was named the first acting director of the National Center for Nursing Research of the National Institutes of Health.

Following her husband's death, Dr. Merritt returned home to Indiana and in 1988 became dean of the Indiana University School of Medicine. She also held positions as interim dean of the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology, and vice chancellor for research and graduate education at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis. Since officially retiring in 1998, Dr. Merritt has served on the Indiana University School of Medicine's National Center for Women's Health and the Women's Fund of Central Indiana. Most recently she has designed and created databases for student research in drama, short stories, and biography as a volunteer for the North Central High School.

Since 1994, three schools of the Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis have designated annual honors, awards, and lectureships in Dr. Merritt's name. Dr. Merritt also has received the National Institutes of Health Director's Award and the Governor of Indiana's "Sagamore of the Wabash"citation. While proud of all this recognition, Dr. Merritt said, "In some respects, I have been most touched by the Certificate of Recognition I was awarded by the Washington Township School Board for the volunteer work I have done in the North Central High School Information Center. The staff has been wonderful in allowing me the privilege of working there at my own speed for the past three years, and I will continue to do so as long as I have the energy and wit to function productively."



Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

Because my bachelor of arts degree was in literature and philosophy, I had to make up two years of pre-medical requirements.

How do I make a difference?

I helped by advising and mentoring countless individual investigators and trainees and by keeping the administrative rails greased in my positions as dean and vice chancellor at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis and as research training officer and first acting director of the National Center for Nursing Research at the NIH. Now I make a difference by consulting and serving on community boards and in a local high school as well as at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

Who was my mentor?

There were no mentors fifty years ago.

How has my career evolved over time?

After receiving my boards in pediatrics, I became involved in federal research administration at the National Institutes of Health, as well as in academic research administration at Indiana University. Opportunities continued to arise that advanced me through the ranks to distinguished university professor with honorary degrees from both Purdue and Indiana Universities.