With his Christian faith as his foundation, the late Daniel Van Durme felt a call early on to take care of those around him, leading him to become a family physician. A gifted teacher, he dedicated his career to preparing the next generation of physicians at the University of South Florida and Florida State University.
“Much of what I have become is because of Dan. How I look at patients, how I teach, how I find myself speaking and moving when presenting, and even what I enjoy most about family medicine, comes from seeing what he did,” said Eduardo Gonzalez, ’87, MD ’91, in a Florida Family Physician story honoring Van Durme. Gonzalez, a professor of family medicine at USF, first met Van Durme as a student.
Van Durme was born in Dansville, New York, the eighth of 10 children. His parents raised him and his siblings with the belief their job was to serve others, a moral code that would play out throughout Van Durme’s life and career.
He enrolled at Syracuse University, studying chemical engineering. But the trajectory of his life changed on a 1980 spring break trip to Florida, where he first met the woman who would become his wife, Pat, at a Bible study. The story goes that the two held hands for a prayer, and after the Amen, their hands remained clasped. By June, they were engaged, and they married in December. They would enjoy 43 years together until Van Durme passed away earlier this year.
Since Pat was already established in Tampa, Van Durme transferred to USF. He changed his major to interdisciplinary natural sciences/chemistry with the goal of pursuing medical school. He earned his MD in 1986 and completed his residency in family practice at Bayfront Medical Center and a fellowship at East Carolina University. He joined the USF faculty in the Department of Family Medicine and began a long run as a team physician for the Tampa Bay Lightning, as well as head medical team physician for USF Athletics.
In 1991, he went into private practice in Lutz/Land O’ Lakes for five years, but he yearned to get back to teaching. He rejoined USF’s faculty as associate professor and vice chair, of the Department of Family Medicine. Four years later, he answered a call to serve that spoke to his heart: Florida State University had chartered a new college of medicine dedicated to training doctors for underserved, rural, elderly and minority populations.
Van Durme became a foundational faculty member, serving as chair of the Department of Family Medicine and Rural Health until 2018 and associate dean for clinical and community affairs from 2016-2018.
Van Durme enjoyed the college’s patient-centered focus. Many of his students said Van Durme taught them to think not about diseases, but people and the realities of their lives.
In 2018, Van Durme helped create FSU Primary Health, an integrated primary care and behavioral health center in a medically underserved community in southwest Tallahassee. He was named senior associate dean for clinical and community affairs and served as founding medical director of the clinic.
He also helped start the Family Medicine Scholars Program and Florida State’s Chapman Chapter of the Gold Humanism Society. He led the university’s response during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He became involved with global health initiatives, frequently traveling with Physicians with Heart, a joint project of nonprofit Heart to Heart International and the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation. He joined other volunteers in bringing medical aid to former Soviet Union countries and Vietnam.
At FSU, he served as director of the medical school’s Center on Global Health, earning a Master of Public Health degree from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health along the way. He volunteered on the boards of the Florida Academy of Family Physicians and the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Van Durme enjoyed making a difference in people’s lives, whether one-on-one with a patient or on a global scale. He was especially proud of the FSU Primary Health clinic.
Above all, Van Durme loved teaching and mentoring students, residents and junior faculty.
“Dr. Van Durme’s fingerprints are all over the FSU College of Medicine and his legacy will live on in our curriculum, our alumni, the care provided to our patients and the ongoing success of the college,” said longtime friend and FSU colleague Dr. Alma Littles.
Van Durme died on May 30, 2023, from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident. He and Pat Van Durme had three children, and he was a doting grandfather of two.
For his career of service, educating students and colleagues, advocating for his profession and many volunteer activities locally and internationally, Van Durme was recognized as the 2023 Distinguished Physician Alumnus for Service.