Featured ACCM Alumnus
Dr. Merel Harmel is a man synonymous with the word “first.” He became the first Anesthesiology resident at Johns Hopkins in 1945. He received the first National Research Council Fellowship in Anesthesiology, for which he left Hopkins to go to the University of Pennsylvania. He also founded the first Anesthesia Department at three separate universities: State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center (1952), the University of Chicago (1968), and Duke University (1971). And the first for which Harmel is probably most well known was his participation in the first Blalock-Taussig shunt procedure. While in the 11th month of his residency at Hopkins, Harmel acted as the anesthesiologist for this novel procedure pioneered by surgeon Alfred Blalock, cardiologist Helen Taussig, and assistant Vivien Thomas. The operation was developed to shunt blood to the lungs in children with tetralogy of Fallot, also known as “blue babies.” It was performed on November 29, 1944, and Harmel’s mentor, Dr. Austin Lamont, recommended that he take the case. The anesthesia used was open-drop ether.
Q. Did you understand the significance of the Blalock-Taussig procedure at the time?
A. Not really. It was the first time, and it was a challenge, but it was a success. Dr. Lamont was delighted.
Q. What do you consider to be the greatest achievement of your career?
A. Starting three departments.
Q. What do you miss most about Johns Hopkins?
A. Actually, I come back rather frequently. I was recently there for the 70th reunion of my Johns Hopkins undergraduate class.
Q. What is your biggest concern about the field of medicine today?
A. That physician–patient contact has become limited because of specialization. Physicians should try to treat the whole person and develop relationships with their patients.
Q. What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
A. That at my age  I’m still teaching. I teach one class per month at Duke on the history of anesthesia.
WAYS TO GIVE
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The Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine
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100 North Charles Street, Suite 437
Baltimore, Maryland 21201