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Director’s passion stems from connection to patients

P R O F I L E - Dr. Mervin Yoder

- Richard and Pauline Klingler Professor of Pediatrics and Professor of Biochemisty and Molecular Biology, Indiana University School of Medicine

- Professor of Cellular and Integrative Physiology, Indiana University School of Medicine

- Attending Neonatologist, Riley Hospital for Children

- Director, Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research


- Malone College, 1975

- Indiana State University, 1976

- Indiana University School of Medicine, 1980

- Pediatric Residency, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, 1982

- Pediatric Ambulatory Residency, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, 1983


- Neonatology, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, 1983-85

From the first day he set foot in her high school Latin class in a northern Indiana farming community, Genevieve Lehman encouraged Mervin Yoder to become a doctor. When Yoder graduated three years later, he agreed – even though he knew nothing about medicine and wasn’t particularly interested in science.

Nearly 40 years later, he is an attending neonatologist at Riley Hospital for Children, an international stem cell expert, and a professor of medical, graduate and post-graduate students in the Indiana University School of Medicine.

Although initially motivated to pursue medicine by Mrs. Lehman, Dr. Yoder discovered his love for science in college through a part-time job in a hospital. Now much of his time and passion are devoted to research. For the last 15 years, he’s investigated the formation of hematopoietic (blood) stem cells and their potential applications to treat illnesses in children.

“What we work on today will make a difference in how we diagnose and treat children tomorrow,” said Dr. Yoder. “Basic research must go hand in hand with clinical care to continue to make improvements. If we don’t conduct research now, we won’t see any improvements in care in 20 years.”

In March 2008, Dr. Yoder became the director of the Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research, which provides resources for IU and Riley scientists. He oversees six major research programs; all focus on fundamental research into the root causes of childhood diseases, finding innovative treatments, and educating other researchers.

Dr. Yoder succeeds Dr. Mary Dinauer. During Dinauer’s tenure as director of the Wells Center from 2000-2007, the center enjoyed strong growth with investigators, staff and funding increasing. Also a professor of pediatrics, Dr. Dinauer will continue her work in gene therapy.

Among his goals as director, Dr. Yoder wants to increase the number of research investigators from 34 to 70.

And he wants those scientists to appreciate their role at Riley.

“Researchers are trained to investigate. It’s hard for them to empathize with the joys and sorrows that are present every day in the hospital,” said Dr. Yoder. “I want researchers to experience those emotions so they understand why we’re here.”

He also hopes to work with Riley Children's Foundation to create a new endowment to help support operations at the Wells Center.

When he’s not in a lab, classroom or the hospital, Dr. Yoder writes books and papers, gives invited lectures around the world, attends scientific review committees for the NIH and serves on the editorial board for five journals. He’s also the president of an international society and co-founder of EndGenitor Technologies.

Although his schedule can be as unpredictable as his research, Yoder never loses focus.

“We have to push ourselves to make sure we’re doing the best we can for the patients,” said Yoder. “As much as the hospital has changed, the focus on the patient hasn’t. That is the core belief at Riley that I find so exciting.”