Dr. Merrick ends career at Wheeling Hospital
WHEELING — Dr. Gregory Merrick has loved every second of his 30-year career at Wheeling Hospital.
However, the current director of the Schiffler Cancer Center has decided it’s time for a change.
Effective Nov. 15, Merrick will be leaving Wheeling Hospital to pursue other interests, including more research, more work in basketball and in youth education.
“I’ve had an unbelievably great run at Wheeling Hospital,” Merrick said during a phone interview. “I love Wheeling Hospital and I always will. I’ve been fortunate to work in a place for 30 years and never had a bad day. It’s been an honor to work there and an honor to work with the people I’ve had a chance to work with.”
This decision is one that Merrick’s been weighing for quite some time. It simply boiled down to “needing to make a change.”
“I feel like this is a good time to pass the reins and let someone new take it to the next level,” Merrick said. “The (Schiffler Cancer Center) is in better shape now than it’s ever been.”
In an e-mail that was sent to the Wheeling Hospital staff Friday afternoon, Wheeling Hospital CEO Douglass Harrison formally announced Merrick’s intended departure.
“We are disappointed to see Merrick leave Wheeling Hospital, but we also wish him the best in his future endeavors. His impact on prostate cancer care, men’s health, youth education and guidance will be felt around the region for years to come.”
The staff at the Schiffler Cancer Center, which Merrick called his “family,” learned of Merrick’s decision in a face-to-face meeting.
“I told my staff that this is not a sad day,” Merrick said. “It’s a happy day. In a relatively small town, we’ve developed an international reputation.”
Merrick, who is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading oncologists, has worked with patients from as many as 45 states and from 18 foreign countries.
“A part of my heart will always be in Tower 4,” Merrick said. “The infrastructure is in place and things (at Wheeling Hospital) should continue to grow and improve and be better five years from now than they are right now.”
The Schiffler Cancer Center gained national and worldwide acclaim, but Merrick was quick to point out it wasn’t just because of him.
“Everything we’ve been able to accomplish has been done in the framework of our team,” Merrick said. “The hardest part of leaving (Wheeling Hospital) will be not having the chance to work with my staff anymore on a daily basis. It’s not hyperbole to say that I work with the best staff and the greatest group of people in the world.”
Though Merrick plans to step away from his current role, he stressed that he’s not retiring from practicing medicine. Quite simply, his approach and focus are changing.
“I am not walking away from medicine,” Merrick stressed. “What I plan to do with my career will have a huge impact on how patients are managed. I want to continue to build on prostate cancer treatment and the quality of life that patients can have.”
Merrick believes the fact that he’s committed to remaining on at Wheeling Hospital for the next six months will allow for a “smooth transition.”
However, a definitive plan for his successor hasn’t been determined.
“I will approach the next six months like I have the last 30 years,” Merrick said. “I will go about my work very diligently.”
As for where he plans to go to begin his next chapter, Merrick isn’t totally certain.
“It’s possible I could remain in this region and it’s possible that I won’t be,” Merrick said. “I am really not focusing on that right now. There’s so much more to do (medically and professionally).”
Merrick’s passion for the sport of basketball has been clearly evident. He founded and directed the highly successful Cancer Research Classic, which was held annually in January. It began at then-Wheeling Jesuit University and has shifted to WesBanco Arena the last two seasons.
Citing a handful of reasons, Merrick announced in February that the CRC would not be held in 2021.
“I am equally proud of CRC basketball and the fact that we put Wheeling on the national high school basketball map,” Merrick said.
Merrick has received numerous awards and special accolades, including the Henschke Award, which was presented by the American Brachytherapy Society, last June. Last August, he was recognized for his work, in all facets, in the Ohio Valley as the YMCA’s Light of the Valley.
“The Ohio Valley is an unbelievably special place,” Merrick said. “I am forever indebted to the people of the Ohio Valley and all of the patients for trusting me and us to participate in their care.”
Merrick and his wife, Shonna, have two sons — Malik and Milos.