“What I have in mind may be briefly expressed. To give to medical students and others interested an insight in the history, traditions, philosophy and ethics of medicine. To help restore, in some degree, a sense of responsibility to medicine’s high tradition and its great responsibility for the future.”
Louise M. Perry to William MacNider, Oct. 4, 1948
The Merrimon Lecture in Medicine was inaugurated in 1966 through a bequest from Dr. Louise Merrimon Perry to create an annual open lecture addressing “the origins, traditions and history of the medical professions and of that ethical philosophy which must dominate the field of human endeavor” at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in memory of her father.
Louise Merrimon Perry, 1878-1962, was licensed to practice medicine at the age of 21 in 1899, and, after obtaining her MD degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in 1912, spent her first career as an opthamologist in her native Asheville, NC. In 1926 she and her husband Nelson Perry moved to Sanibel Island in Florida, where she developed a successful second career as a malacologist: a scientific student of sea-shells. In 1940, she published what is still a definitive reference work, Marine Shells of the Southwest Coast of Florida, and until Pearl Harbor she maintained a lively correspondence with the Japanese Emperor Hirohito about their mutual interest in marine fossils. She was profiled for this work in the Feb. 22, 1941, Saturday Evening Post, in an article entitled “Shell Shock.” After the death of her husband she returned to the full-time practice of medicine in Asheville, where she lived at the famous Battery Park Hotel. She left her Sanibel Island property to the Ding Darling Wildlife Sanctuary as the “Perry Tract,” its only Gulf Coast frontage.
Merrimon Lecturers are selected each year from nominations considered by a university-wide Merrimon Selection Committee. The first Merrimon Lecture was delivered by the prominent Johns Hopkins obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Nicholson Eastman in 1966, who spoke on “Induced Abortion and Contraception: A Consideration of Ethical Philosophy in Obstetrics”.
Since then, forty distinquished scholars and physicians have been honored by the lectureship, including Rene Dubos, C.P. Snow, Jared Diamond, Joycelyn Elders, Paul Farmer, and Nicole Lurie.