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Dr. Merlyn Meneze Rodrigues

Year of Birth / Death

b. 1938

Medical School

Christian Medical College


District of Columbia

Career Path

Diagnostic and therapeutic services: Pathology
Internal medicine: Ophthalmology
Dr. Merlyn Meneze Rodrigues


I became a doctor because of my desire to make a meaningful use of my life. Several of my family members were physicians or nurses and they interested me in medicine from an early age.


Dr. Merlyn Meneze Rodrigues, M.D., has devoted her career to public service on both the state and federal levels as a professor, senior scientist, educator, and administrator. She was a scientific review administrator and research medical officer at the National Library of Medicine, where she helped to keep the latest research in the biomedical sciences accessible in one of the largest collections of medical knowledge in the world. In December 2015, Dr. Rodrigues took the role of scientific program manager for the Biorepositories & Biospecimen Research Branch, part of the Cancer Diagnosis Program at the National Institutes of Health.

Born Merlyn Meneze in India, in 1938, Dr. Rodrigues earned her doctor of medicine degree from the Christian Medical College of Madras University in India in 1959. She went on to complete her master of science degree in ophthalmology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi. In 1965, at the encouragement of Lorenz Zimmerman, M.D., an internationally-acclaimed pathologist and chief of the Ophthalmic Pathology Division at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) in Washington, D.C., she applied for admission to the University of Pennsylvania. She was accepted as a Fulbright Scholar and completed a residency in anatomic pathology. She then undertook a fellowship in ophthalmic pathology at the AFIP, and completed a residency in pathology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. In 1971, she graduated with a Ph.D. in pathology from The George Washington University.

Dr. Rodrigues has instituted a number of innovations during her career. For the Food and Drug Administration's Human Tissue Program, she developed and implemented a variety of policies, standards and guidelines on eye-banked tissue and tissue engineering. Dr. Rodrigues has established and expanded new electron microscope laboratories for the Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. For each of these laboratories Dr. Rodrigues evaluated and selected microscopes, oversaw their installation, and then developed teaching and research programs to best utilize the new facilities.

As a professor of ophthalmology and pathology at the University of Maryland, section chief for the National Eye Institute, and director of pathology for the Wills Eye Hospital, Dr. Rodrigues has been actively involved in training numerous fellows and medical students from the United States and abroad. Her own research has focused on ophthalmic pathology, immunohistochemistry, and molecular biology.

Working at the U.S. National Library of Medicine, her responsibilities included the introduction and maintenance of increasingly sophisticated systems for the storage and access of information. As Dr. Rodrigues puts it, "I am involved in helping to advance the research of others."

Dr. Rodrigues received the Center Director Scientific Achievement Award from the Food and Drug Administration in 2000 for her research on preventing blindness, and the Honor Award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology in 1984.

Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

My biggest obstacle was the limited acceptance of women in medical school at the time that I applied.

How do I make a difference?

I make a difference by helping to advance research programs in high priority areas.

Who was my mentor?

My mentor was an internationally acclaimed pathologist, Lorenz Zimmerman, M.D., chief of the Ophthalmic Pathology Division at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. When I met him, Dr. Zimmerman encouraged me to come to the United States for fellowship training.

How has my career evolved over time?

My career has evolved over time by moving from actively pursuing my own research and teaching programs for over twenty-five years, to my current role in health science research and administration where I am involved in helping to advance the research of others.