SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Dr. Craig Merrell traveled the world as a well respected surgeon, but his travels came to an end earlier this week near his home in Suffolk. Police say he ran off the road going eastbound on US 58 where it connects with 664.
“He’s just been outstanding for us,” said Kathleen Magee, who with her husband Dr. Bill Magee founded Operation Smile.
Merrell worked with the organization for several years. It provides surgery where its needed most, especially for children with cleft lip and cleft palate. At one point Merrell was their world medical director.
“That’s a lot, because you’re up at night,” Kathleen Magee said. “(There might be) an issue in Romania, an issue in South America, and you have to handle that. No matter what you asked Craig, of course he was gonna say yes.”
Magee says Merrell was especially instrumental in the development of Vietnam, where he helped to establish two microsurgery centers to help the Vietnamese people.
“We were the first Americans in the country after the war. He began to teach the Vietnamese how to do microsurgery. One of their biggest problems is trauma, being on those motor scooters.”
Operation smile is headquartered in Virginia Beach. It was founded 37 years ago, and has grown to 150 employees in 60 countries. Magee says that never would’ve been possible without Merrell.
“He was very capable, very organized, and very dedicated to make sure he gives back in life.”
In recent years Merrill maintained a private plastic surgery practice in the Harborview section of Suffolk.
Merrell was an active member of the Mormon church. He and his wife had six sons, but also adopted two girls from Romania.