During his internship at Penn and his residency at Ohio State University Hospitals, Dr. Meriwether would make it a point to visit other hospitals so he could widen his range of experience. "At the University of Pennsylvania hospital," he says, "we tended to have patients who said, 'I'm having that stomach trouble again, doctor,' but at another hospital a patient might be arriving in a coma."
At Penn and Ohio State the doctor began working on papers, either as junior author or on his own. He collaborated with Dr. Mengel on a series on an unusual blood disease that was published in such journals as Biochemistry, Blood and The Journal of Clinical Investigation and was the senior author of a paper published in the British journal Nature. On his own, Dr. Meriwether wrote a paper about a patient who came in from the cold at Ohio State with a body temperature of 84°. The article is due to appear in the American Journal of Medicine. "It was interesting to follow this patient along and note her general physiologic changes," Dr. Meriwether says. "Of course, any and every patient has some significance for virtually every doctor. A patient is a human being." The doctor has a number of other papers in press. He likes writing because, as he puts it, "writing requires clear thinking."
In 1969 Dr. Meriwether joined the Baltimore Cancer Research Center, a subdivision of the National Cancer Institute, which in turn is part of the National Institutes of Health. During his first year in Baltimore he was involved in the care of patients with leukemia and other malignant diseases, but he is now primarily concerned with testing experimental antileukemic drugs on mice.
Dr. Meriwether took up track last winter because it was, according to him, "relaxing physical exertion. I wasn't thinking about a drug dosage or a diagnosis. I owe it to myself to get away for a few hours from medicine and socioeconomic problems."
He began running in February of 1970 after attending a local track meet and did very well competing in sneakers on armory floors in a series of minor meets. One day last July he was at home watching the U.S. vs. France track meet on television. The U.S. sprinters had a bad day, and the doctor turned to his wife and said, "I could beat those guys." Myrtle sort of shrugged and said, "Sure, honey." That was all the encouragement the doctor needed. He campaigned briefly outdoors, running the 100 in 9.6, 9.5 and 9.4.
Dr. Meriwether's excursions on the boards have caused no difficulties with his colleagues at the research center. His boss, Dr. Nicholas Bachur, says, "We're enthralled. He has extremely good relations with his colleagues because of his easygoing competence and high ability in his scientific work. Next to his family, we're his biggest cheering section." Outside Dr. Meriwether's office door an associate has placed a star next to his name. Says Dr. Meriwether, "There have been absolutely no discouraging remarks in terms of upholding the image of a physician or putting in time in the laboratory. I think it goes without saying, among those who know me, that I stay until I'm satisfied with my work. Fortunately, my laboratory work has been coming along quite well. I've been extremely pleased with the way things have developed and, if anything, I may be a little ahead of schedule in terms of getting my laboratory work done. However, this still demands time, and in the past couple of weeks it has been particularly taxing. There have been a couple of nights when I've worked past midnight, and I've seen the sun rise on occasion. I've had a lot of support from my wife. She also knows that I realize I'm getting old. If I'm going to run, perhaps it's already too late. But still, if I'm going to get this out of my system, I might as well do it now. My wife helps remind me that although this new added dimension of competitive track is an exciting one, for me medicine comes first. There's no doubt that if I had to make the decision between a patient or my work vs. track, track would have to go."
Whether or not Dr. Meriwether will run outdoors is undecided at this point, to say nothing about any ambitions for the 1972 Olympics. "There are a variety of factors that will influence how much I will pursue outdoor running," he said early last week, "and outdoors is perhaps better suited for me. First of all, I have to get through the indoor season. I have to take it race by race. Certainly, my running program has been a little heavy compared to that of the more experienced runners. For example, Charlie Green is taking it easy now. He's been around, so he knows how it's done. He knows that two meets a week for three straight weeks is not the way to do it. But again, I'm very early, or perhaps very late, in my track career and I am eager to run.
"Secondly, I have to contend with injuries. After every race I'm a little sore. I'm not sure that this is shared by every runner. I've talked with some of the more experienced runners, and they say that they are sore, too. It's my legs usually, sometimes hamstrings, sometimes interior thigh muscles. This usually lasts two, three or four days and is gone by the following week. Thirdly, my work demands may change July 1. Then I will be in Boston at the Thorndike Memorial Laboratory, one of the major hematology laboratories in the country, which is a subdivision of Harvard. I will be on the staff of the Harvard service, but I'll primarily be concerned with laboratory research. If it's impossible for me to run, well, I will not run."
If he can run, the doctor expects to do better in the 100 than he has in the 60, because the start is not as critical. In Los Angeles last week, Mel Pender gave voice to the opinion that Dr. Meriwether could do 9.1 in the 100, which would mean he would tie the world record. The doctor himself says, "I would say I am best suited for the quarter-mile, but I would never run it competitively. It takes too much out of me in terms of a training program."
Whether or not the doctor continues depends, then, on several factors, of which medicine is the main one. But even if he doesn't compete after July 1, he certainly will take a couple of hours a week to get out and sprint on his own. "My body is exercising and my mind is relaxing," he says, "and I think these are the essentials of sport."