Dr. DuVal arrived in Tucson in January 1964 as founding dean of The University of Arizona College of Medicine. Charged with the task of establishing Arizona's first MD-degree granting college, he began efforts to raise funds, design the original facility and recruit founding faculty members. Originally called the Arizona Medical Center, the facility was to include the College of Medicine, which admitted its first class in fall 1967, and The University of Arizona Teaching Hospital, now University Medical Center, which opened to patients in 1971.
In 1971, the year the UA College of Medicine graduated its first class, Dr. DuVal was nominated to be assistant secretary for health in the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. During his tenure in Washington, from 1971-1973, he was the first federal official to warn the public formally about the dangers of smoking.
In 1973, Dr. DuVal returned to the UA, where he served as acting dean of the College of Medicine until 1974 and vice president for health sciences until 1979.
Dr. DuVal graduated from Dartmouth Medical School in 1944 and completed his medical degree at Cornell University Medical College in 1946. Following service in the U.S. Navy, he completed an internship at Roosevelt Hospital in New York. A residency at the Bronx Veterans Administration Hospital under Allen Whipple, MD, a pioneer in pancreatic surgery, stimulated Dr. DuVal's interest in pancreatic surgery; after joining the surgery faculty at State University of New York in Brooklyn in 1954, he developed an innovative surgical procedure for treating patients with chronic pancreatitis.
Dr. DuVal was recruited to the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine in 1957 as one of its first full-time faculty members. There he was a professor of surgery and served as assistant director of the University of Oklahoma Medical Center until 1963.
Following his years with the UA, Dr. DuVal was president and chief executive officer of the National Center for Health Education in San Francisco from 1979 to 1982; president and CEO of Associated Hospital Systems/American Healthcare Institute in Phoenix and Washington, D.C., from 1982 to 1988; and senior vice president for medical affairs at Samaritan Health Services in Phoenix from 1988 until his retirement in 1990.
Active in his retirement, Dr. DuVal urged the establishment a medical school in downtown Phoenix. The UA College of Medicine-Phoenix, in collaboration with Arizona State University, opened in October 2006.
Over the course of his life, Dr. DuVal was recognized with nine honorary degrees and fellowships and numerous awards for scholarship and public and community service. At the UA, he was given the UA Bobcats Hall of Fame Award in 1978; the College of Pharmacy's Rufus A. Lyman Community Service Award in 1979; and the College of Medicine Dean's Award in 1987. In 1987, the Arizona Health Sciences Center auditorium was designated "Merlin K. DuVal Auditorium" in his honor. Plans were under way by UA faculty to nominate Dr. DuVal for an honorary doctorate.
A memorial service is being planned. In lieu of flowers, the family has established a fund to benefit Med-Start, a UA College of Medicine program established by Dr. DuVal that encourages ethnic minorities, disadvantaged, rural and non-traditional students to pursue careers in the health professions. Checks may be made out to the UA Foundation/Med-Start, College of Medicine Development Office, PO Box 245018, Tucson AZ 85724-5018.