Merel H. Harmel, MD, was a professor emeritus and founding chair of the Duke Department of Anesthesiology. He served as chair from 1971 to 1983 and had a profound impact on all those with whom he came in contact.
In 1945, Dr. Harmel became the first anesthesiology resident at Johns Hopkins. At the recommendation of his mentor, Austin Lamont, MD, Dr. Harmel participated in the first Blalock-Taussig shunt procedure—an operation developed to shunt blood to the lungs in children with tetralogy of Fallot, also known as “blue babies.” Taking place in just his eleventh month of residency, Dr. Harmel acted as the anesthesiologist for the procedure, which was pioneered by surgeon Alfred Blalock, MD, cardiologist Helen Taussig, MD, and assistant Vivien Thomas.
Following his time at Johns Hopkins and later at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Harmel went on to found the first anesthesia departments at State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center in 1952 and the University of Chicago in 1968. In 1971, Dr. Harmel became chair of the new Department of Anesthesiology at Duke. At that time there were only six faculty members, no residency program, and little academic enterprise.
Dr. Harmel worked diligently to recruit faculty, establish the residency program, and create an academic and research program. During his time at Duke, Dr. Harmel led the development of the world’s first electronic vital signs-monitoring system. Originally known as Duke Automatic Monitoring Equipment (DAME), the equipment was installed in Duke University Hospital when it was built in 1980. Similar equipment is now standard in all U.S. operating rooms. Dr. Harmel brought international prominence to Duke’s Department of Anesthesiology and was a strong advocate for medical student and resident education.
This endowment was established in his honor by Duke University and is currently held by Mark F. Newman, MD, President of Duke’s Private Diagnostic Clinic and former chair of the Department of Anesthesiology from 2001-2014.