Dr. U. Robert Merikangas, 78, a retired colonel who served 30 years in the Army Medical Corps and then another 12 in the Health Center of the University of Maryland at College Park, died of cardiopulmonary arrest March 17 at the Washington Adventist Hospital.

Dr. Merikangas was chief of professional services and medicine at DeWitt Army Hospital at Fort Belvoir from 1954 to 1958, and he was head of the campus service at the Health Center when he retired from the University of Maryland in 1972.

A resident of Hyattsville, he was born in Helsinki. He grew up in New Jersey and Vermont and graduated from the University of Virginia and its medical school. He did his internship at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 1931 and 1932 after receiving his commission in the Army Medical Corps.

Before World War II, Dr. Merikangas had assignments in Texas and the Philippines, and he was en route from the Philippines to Hawaii when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. His wartime duty included assignments in Honolulu and California. From July 1943 to July 1945 he was commanding officer of the 93rd General Hospital, which he formed at Fort Meade, Md., and served in Britain.

After the war he served in New York, Germany and Massachusetts before retiring from the Army in 1960 as director of medical education and chief of professional services at Fitzsimons Army Hospital in Denver. His military decorations include a Bronze Star.

Dr. Merikangas was a former president of the Finlandia Foundation of Washington.

Survivors include his wife of 54 years, Isabel Thompson Merikangas of Hyattsville; two sons, Robert J. of Silver Spring and James R. of Woodbridge, Conn.; two sisters, Sisko Contaldi of Glendale, Calif., and Dee Manzo of Hollywood, Fla., and four grandchildren.