George Merriam

George Rennell Merriam

1947 - 2013

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Obituary of George Rennell Merriam

George Rennell Merriam, M.D., Professor of Medicine at the University of Washington and renown clinician and researcher at the Veterans Administration Puget Sound Health Care System, died while hiking on Mount Rainier on September 26, five days after his sixty-sixth birthday. He was a brilliant student. He graduated from high school in 1965 as both a National Merit Scholar and one of two Presidential Scholars from his home state of New Jersey. With the Presidential Scholars from the other 49 states, he was invited to the White House and met President Lyndon B. Johnson. At Harvard College he majored in chemistry and physics, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year, and was awarded the Fiske Scholarship to study physics and especially astrophysics at Cambridge University in England. He was awarded the M.A. degree in 1971 with first class honors. His career path changed and he returned to Harvard to study medicine. While a medical student, he began research in endocrinology; and after completing a residency in internal medicine at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City, he moved to the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, where he was a Fellow in endocrinology from 1978 to 1981. In a class at the NIH he met Suzanne who held a Ph.D. from Penn State, and in 1984 they married. He was Head of the Reproductive Endocrinology Unit in 1991 when he was recruited to the VA Puget Sound and the University of Washington. He oversaw the consolidation of the American Lake research program with the Seattle Division, and subsequently created and managed the Clinical Research Unit at American Lake. Within endocrinology, his special expertise was neuroendocrinology. In particular, he studied the basic physiology of catechol estrogens on neuroendocrine function, the hormonal regulation of reproduction, and the role of growth hormone on the role of development and aging. This work led to clinical studies of growth hormone for children of short stature and more recently to studies of the effect of growth hormone on cognition and memory and muscle function. He was author or co-author of 200 articles, reviews, and book chapters; and author or co-author of three books. He was a frequent speaker at medical symposia and conferences and was awarded many grants and professional honors. His 1982 paper on episodic hormone secretion was selected for the classic papers series of the American Journal of Physiology. Dr. Merriam spent a summer in high school in Olympic National Park with the Student Conservation Association and became an early leader in student conservation activities at Harvard, hosting Friends of the Earth founder David Brower there. He remained a committed conservationist and enthusiastic hiker. With friends and family, he hiked in many places in the Adirondack Mountains of the Northeast, the Sierra mountains of California, and the mountains of the Northwest. Following an endocrine conference in Australia in 1980 he and medical colleague Steve Arnon climbed New Zealand’s Mt. Cook and were trapped for a week in a summit crevasse by an unexpected blizzard. George sang with the Glee Club in high school and college, and he returned after graduation to Cambridge, Massachusetts, for Alumni concerts and travelled with the Alumni group to performances with university choirs in Japan. He was a member of the Men’s Choir Ensemble of the University Place Presbyterian Church. In recent years he led efforts to preserve the colonial home at Merriam's Corner in Concord, Massachusetts, site of the first skirmish of the American Revolution and where three brothers from Kent, England, settled in 1639. Dr. Merriam is survived by his wife Suzanne and his daughter Kelsey, his mother Martha, his sisters Charlotte and Susan, his brother John and three nieces and one nephew. Donations may be made to Friends of Minute Man National Park, with 'Merriam Corner Fund' written in the memo line, and mailed to: Friends of Minute Man National Park, 174 Liberty Street, Concord, Massachusetts 01742. They may also be sent to the Merriam Memorial Fund at the University of Washington, Department of Medicine, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology, and Nutrition, 1959 NE Pacific Street, Seattle, WA 98195 or to the Merriam Memorial Fund at the Seattle Institute for Biomedical and Clinical Research (SIBCR), 1100 Olive Way, Seattle, WA, 98101. The latter fund could be used to support research in endocrinology and education of Fellows at the VA, Puget Sound. Donations may also be made to the Men's Choir Ensemble at the UPPC. Our deepest condolences go to his family, fellow colleagues, staff, friends, and patients. Arrangements by Edwards Memorial Center.
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