Distinguished Scientist: David F. Mercer, M.D., Ph.D.

February 01, 2016

Image with caption: David F. Mercer, M.D., Ph.D.

David F. Mercer, M.D., Ph.D.

This profile is part of a series to highlight the researchers who will be honored at a ceremony for UNMC's 2015 Scientist Laureate, Research Leadership, Distinguished Scientist and New Investigator Award recipients.

The Distinguished Scientist Award

The Distinguished Scientist Award -- which is sponsored by the chancellor -- recognizes researchers who have been among the most productive scientists in the country during the past five years.

  • Name: David Mercer, M.D., Ph.D.
  • Title: Professor of surgery, director of intestinal rehabilitation program, liver and intestine transplant surgeon
  • Joined UNMC: 2006
  • Hometown: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Research focus:
Intestinal failure

Describe your research briefly in layman's terms.
Children and adults with intestinal failure are dependent on intravenous feeding to stay alive. While life-saving, this therapy is slowly toxic to the body and leads to life-threatening complications. Our research, both clinical and basic science, is focused on optimizing outcomes my manipulating diet, bacteria, and the intravenous feedings themselves. Presently, we are developing programs to study the role of gut microbes in short bowel syndrome and after intestinal transplantation, to help determine what role they play in patients successfully coming off of intravenous feeding.

How does your research contribute to science and/or health care?
This work is done directly with patients, and thus impacts immediately on their clinical care. Our Intestinal Failure program at UNMC is one of the largest in the world, and sees patients from across the United States. On a weekly basis, we incorporate the new knowledge we gain through clinical and basic science studies into our protocols for care.

What is the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you, professional or personal? There have been two important lessons I have learned from different sources, which I have always remembered and taken to heart:

  • "In the fields of observation chance favors only the prepared mind." - this is a quote from Louis Pasteur that teaches to view the world always with curiosity, and to see opportunities for experimentation and improvement in everyday events all around you.
  • "Words are like arrows - once you release them, they cannot be taken back" - Dr. Lorne Tyrrell, my former mentor in research and holder of the Order of Canada, the highest civilian honor possible for a scientist in Canada. This was an excellent piece of advice he gave me off the cuff many years ago that I have never forgotten, and one I have passed on to my children and many others. It is simply excellent advice from a very wise man.

List three things few people know about you.

  • I have played hockey all my life, and still do here in Omaha.
  • I listen to hip hop in the operating room, often at fairly high volumes. I prefer West Coast rap.
  • I love to fly fish, and when the weather is warmer I hit all the small lakes in the Omaha area on a regular basis.


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Rebecca Rae Anderson
February 05, 2016 at 10:49 AM

A Renaissance man, by all reports, and an affable guy. Congratulations!

Kusum K. Kharbanda
February 02, 2016 at 2:07 PM

Dr. Mercer, Congratulation!!!