Joseph M. Merrill, M.D.

Published 4:29 pm Wednesday, August 18, 2021

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Joseph M. Merrill, MD, died on June 27, 2021.

He was married to the former Gudrun Signe Wallgren in 1962 in Bastad, Sweden, who predeceased him.

He is survived by daughters, Maria Merrill and Caroline Merrill Cooley, and her husband, Smith Cooley, and grandchildren Annabelle and Holden Cooley.

Joe was born on Dec. 8, 1923, in Andalusia as the fifth son of Walter and Mary McLaney Merrill.  He was educated in the Andalusia Public Schools and at the University of Alabama. In 1943 he volunteered for the army and underwent infantry basic training at Ft. Benning, Georgia. Upon completion, he was selected for specialized training and assigned to Texas A&M in College Station, Texas before being transferred to Northington General Hospital in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and the University of Alabama School of Medicine.  For his last two years, he transferred to Harvard Medical School, graduating in 1948.

He then served a year as a rotating intern at Louisville General Hospital and underwent further training at Vanderbilt University Hospital. During the Korean War, he served in the Air Force for the years 1951-1953. Afterward, he returned to Vanderbilt as a Fellow in Medicine, and he was then awarded an NIH Fellowship to go for further training at Hammersmith Hospital in London, where he was named a Wellcome Associate of the Royal Society of Medicine.

He returned to the Research Laboratories of the Nashville Department of Veterans Affairs hospital. He participated in a survey of cardiovascular disease among the pygmies in the Ituri Forest of the Belgian Congo in 1960. In 1964 he was appointed as Chief of NIH’s General Clinical Research Branch.  Then, in 1967 he came to Houston as Dean of Scientific Affairs at Baylor College of Medicine. With the separation of the Baylor College of Medicine from Baylor University, he was appointed Executive Vice-President. In 1976-1977 he took a sabbatical to study at the London School of Tropical Medicine, and from 1984-1985 he was a visiting professor at Harvard Medical School.

While he was at Baylor College of Medicine he performed research into various aspects of the doctor-patient relationship, studies that developed from an initial study in the Emergency Room at Houston’s Ben Taub Hospital. These efforts resulted in numerous publications and presentations at various conferences around the world. During this time he was also a physician to Seven Acres Jewish Home for the Aged.

His other activities of note included Directorships of First City Bank (Medical Center), Southwest Center for Urban Research, Rice University Center for Community Design and Research, Gulf Coast Blood Center, and he served as Chairman of the Board of the Houston Academy of Medicine -Texas Medical Center Library.

A memorial service was held July 31, 2021, at Christ Church Cathedral, Houston, Texas.