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Several pictures of doctors who are featured on the Local Legends web site

MEET LOCAL LEGEND: Doris Merrritt, M.D.

Picture of Doris Merrritt
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Doris Merrritt, M.D.

“I was the right person in the right place at the right time. I've lived in an era that paralleled the growth of the NIH and the country's support for health research.”


Richard G. Lugar



In her 40 years of service to the medical community, Doris Merritt learned to take change in stride. She has been a pediatrician, director of research grants at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and a dean of engineering and technology, a cornucopia of careers and responsibilities she has shouldered confidently. "I was an English major in college. I joined the Navy right after graduating. I was just 21. The young women who were my contemporaries were not very happy with their careers. On my mother's side there were several physicians. I decided I could be a doctor. It wasn't that easy for women to become a doctor back then, but I knew that's what I wanted."

An early NIH appointment interrupted a brief period as a stay-at-home mom. At the NIH she found herself immersed in research administration; helping others write grant proposals, a skill that served her well in her later career. "I just loved it," she says now. "The people were wonderful, research scientists, Nobel Laureates, inquiring minds of all sorts. I like to help people, so anytime anybody wanted help getting a grant, they'd come see me."

As Professor Emerita of the Indiana University School of Medicine, Doris Merritt has had a wide impact in many fields. Her lifetime of varied achievements includes honors from Indiana University School of Medicine and School of Nursing, Purdue University, the NIH, and the State of Indiana.

Nominated by Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), she became the first physician to be made an honorary member of the international nursing society Sigma Theta Tau, in recognition of her service as first acting director of the National Center for Nursing Research, NIH.

She earned her MD in 1952, one of three women in a class of 80, completed a residency at Duke in pediatrics, and moved on to the NIH Division of Research Grants in 1957. Along with her husband Donald, she arrived at Indiana University School of Medicine in 1961. Between 1961 and 1978 she was instrumental in securing some $55 million in grants for the growing campus.

Appointed to the Board of Regents of the National Library of Medicine, she supported the efforts that created the infrastructure for the medical library's electronic information system in use today. As dean for research and sponsored programs at Indiana University/Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), she helped launch education programs including the Consortium for Urban Education. In 1995, IUPUI, faced with the sudden resignation of its dean, drafted her to serve as interim dean of the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology.

"All you have to learn to do is listen for the best ideas, help people with those ideas, and then make it happen. When it's something worthwhile, it will make it all the way to the top," Doris Merritt says today.

Dr. Merritt's photo courtesy of Indiana University/Purdue University Indianapolis.



Appointed Instructor in Pediatrics, Duke University School of Medicine


Director, Medical Research Grants and Contracts, Indiana University School of Medicine


Appointed Dean, Research and Sponsored Programs, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI)


Acting Director, National Center for Nursing Research, National Institutes of Health


Appointed Professor Emerita, Indiana University School of Medicine




George Washington University School of Medicine


Medical Research Administration

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