K. Alvin and Shirley E. Merendino Endowed Professorship
The K. Alvin and Shirley E. Merendino Endowed Professorship was established in 2006 — an upgrade of a research fund named after Dr. Merendino in 2002.
K. Alvin Merendino, M.D., Ph.D., LL.D., spent more than 35 years at the University of Washington as a professor of surgery, and he served as chair of the Department of Surgery from 1964 to 1972. He joined the UW faculty in 1949 as an associate professor of surgery.
Born in West Virginia, he received an undergraduate degree (summa cum laude) from Ohio University and an M.D. from Yale University. He also held a Ph.D. in surgery-physiology from the Graduate School of the University of Minnesota (UM), where he was an assistant professor in the surgery department before joining the UW faculty.
While in training at UM, he was research assistant to Dr. Owen H. Wangensteen, a noted surgical educator and researcher. Dr. Merendino worked with Dr. Wangensteen in the Minnesota Experimental Surgery Laboratory, which, at the time, was one of the most active surgical research facilities in the nation. As an assistant professor at UM, Dr. Merendino, working with staff, was involved in the early clinical application of the “blue baby” operation, recognized as a significant advance in closed-heart surgery on children with congenital heart disease.
Dr. Merendino became active in the surgery research program at UW Medicine soon after his arrival. The Department of Surgery’s chair, Dr. Henry N. Harkins, had established a strong research program. In 1950, Dr. Merendino became director of the Experimental Surgical Laboratory, a position he was to hold for the next 22 years. Under his direction, the laboratory became a regional and national resource for new surgical knowledge and techniques.
In 1955, he became professor of surgery, and, in 1957, he assumed the additional responsibilities of administrative officer for the Department of Surgery. Dr. Merendino became chair of the Department of Surgery in 1964 and headed the department for eight years, a period marked by considerable growth, both in the size of the department and in its capacity to provide excellent research, training and patient care programs. In spite of his heavy administrative responsibilities, he continued his activities both in clinical surgery and in the surgical research and training programs during the time he was chair of the department. His wife, Shirley, a public health nurse, was a great asset, especially in teaching the staff of medical records and the establishment of the library.
In 1976, four years after he stepped down as chair, Dr. Merendino took a three-year leave of absence from the UW School of Medicine to become chair of the Department of Surgery and surgeon-in-chief of the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. After four months he was named director of medical affairs for that institution. His major responsibility was the quality of care in the hospital, controlled, in part, by the appointment of a quality staff member, the establishment of a visiting professor program, the kingdom’s first surgical residency, and an educational program for staff and residents.
He then returned to the Department of Surgery for a two-year period. In 1981, he retired from the UW and was named professor emeritus. He was invited back to the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre as the director of the Cancer Therapy Institute, associate director of medical affairs and special consultant to the executive director of King Faisal Medical City, which includes the hospital. In approximately six months, Dr. Merendino became the director of operations of King Faisal Medical City.
Highlights of Dr. Merendino’s clinical and research contributions represent his broad interests in abdominal, esophageal, thoracic and cardiac surgery, which are difficult to summarize. He introduced the fabric Teflon as a material for artificial blood vessels and the development of the jejunal interposition operation (the “Merendino Operation”). He demonstrated the feasibility of tracheobronchial resection and reconstruction combined with lung resection for cancer as well as several procedures for the correction of mitral regurgitation. His was the first description of the intradiaphragmatic distribution of the phrenic nerve.
Dr. Merendino performed the first open-heart operation on the West Coast in August 1956. In addition to his responsibilities in the Department of Surgery, he served as chairman of the American Board of Surgery, chairman of the Surgery Study Section of the National Institutes of Health, member of the National Board of Medical Examiners, and more. A more complete summation can be found in Who’s Who in the World from Marquis. Dr. Merendino passed away on Sept. 10, 2011.
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