history of Arizona's physicians is rich in mystery,
controversy, innovation and pride. Since the
settlers first inhabited the territory, physicians
have been a part of Arizona's legacy. They helped
shape the culture of this Great State and set
the standard for the quality of care delivered
to its citizens. The Physicians of Interest
page on this website highlights the historical
work of Arizona's physicians and the roles they
played while shaping the State's future. The
biography of a new physician will be added each
month and in time, the page will represent a
patchwork of the names and faces that brought
medicine in Arizona to life.
Merlin K. Du Val, M.D.
With a vision for success and sensitive attention to detail, Dr. Merlin K. Du Val sought to build a legacy with the University of Arizona College of Medicine. Amidst political debate and financial difficulties, the Arizona Board of Regents won the high-stakes challenge to build the state's first medical college at the University of Arizona in Tucson, rather than at the site of its primary contender, Arizona State University. In 1963, a bill to appropriate $160,000 to hire a dean and begin planning the College passed each house of the State Legislature by only one vote.
Dr. Du Val was born in New Jersey, educated at Dartmouth College, and received his M.D. degree from Cornell University. After two years in the Navy, he trained in surgery under Allen Whipple at the Bronx VA Hospital, New York. Thereafter, he joined the surgery faculty at the State University of N.Y. College of Medicine at Kings County Hospital, Brooklyn, N.Y., and then the University of Oklahoma School Of Medicine in Oklahoma City. While at the University of Oklahoma, he achieved recognition as a Professor of Surgery, Vice Chairman of the department of Surgery, and Assistant Director of the University of Oklahoma Medical Center.
It was these accomplishments that prompted the Arizona Board of Regents to invite him to establish a College of Medicine for the University of Arizona in Tucson in 1963. Placed on the grounds of the former University of Arizona polo field, the College of Medicine was designed and built to withstand the ever-changing needs of a growing Arizona population. In a 1992 interview with the Arizona Republic, Dr. Du Val stated that it was his goal to build a college that would serve the entire state. "In that regard, we've been successful," he said.
Today, the University of Arizona College of Medicine stands as a model to other health care educational centers. In a 1979 letter from Louis J. Kettel, M.D., then Dean of the University of Arizona College of Medicine, he stated, "The organizational structure was planned and executed in the health sciences complex with equally high quality. The selection of the number and nature of the original departments, the faculty promotion and tenure guidelines and the financial plan for clinical faculty salaries, too, have been viewed as models. Medical schools throughout North America visit and question and study Arizona as they attempt to build and remodel their health care enterprises."
After serving as founding dean of the University of Arizona College of Medicine, Dr. Du Val's career continued to blossom. Among his numerous accomplishments, in 1971, President Nixon appointed him Assistant Secretary for Health in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Among his contributions were: adding citizens to the FDA Advisory Councils; ordering the cessation of production of lead-based paint and gasoline; encouraging the substitution of light for regular cigarettes; stopping the Tuskegee syphilis experiment among Black men; mediating between the House and the Senate to produce the National Cancer Act, (the Pen used by the President to sign this Act is exhibited in the lobby of the Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson); and authoring the Emergency Medical Services Act as a Presidential Imitative. In 1973, he returned to the University of Arizona as Vice-President for Health Sciences until 1979. He retired in 1990.
Dr. Du Val has been awarded nine honorary degrees or fellowships and fourteen institutional and community service awards. The Auditorium at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center and the Surgery Conference room in the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center Research Building in Oklahoma City are named in his honor. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and the Board of Directors of the Arizona Foundation for the Eye. He has published approximately 110 papers.