News of the Week

FSU PrimaryHealth™ building named in honor of Dr. Daniel Van Durme

May 30, 2024
Pat Van Durme and Interim Dean Alma Littles embrace after revealing the new sign designating FSU PrimaryHealth as the Daniel J. Van Durme, M.D., Building. FSU Vice President Kyle Clark, who particpated in the reveal, is at left, gathering the tarp that dropped.
Pat Van Durme, left, and Interim Dean Alma Littles, M.D., embrace after revealing the new sign designating FSU PrimaryHealth as the  Daniel J. Van Durme, M.D., Building. FSU Vice President Kyle Clark, who participated in the reveal, is at left, gathering the tarp that dropped. (Photo by Mark Bauer, FSU College of Medicine)

Daniel Van Durme, M.D., transformed the health care landscape of southwest Tallahassee. In doing so, he transformed countless lives and likely saved many when the COVID-19 pandemic struck a few months later.

Daniel J. Van Durme, M.D.Charged with overseeing the creation of a primary care clinic for the Florida State University College of Medicine to operate, the physician and educator known as “DVD” worked with local officials, colleagues, community partners, stakeholders and other interested parties to find the spot where the clinic could make the biggest difference. It turned out to be a place so lacking in access to quality health care that it had been designated a “medical desert.”

FSU PrimaryHealth™ was the culmination of his labor of love and commitment to the practice of medicine in general, and family medicine, in particular. On Thursday, May 30, 2024, a year to the day after he died from injuries he sustained after a motorist cut through a parking lot to avoid waiting at a traffic light and struck his motorcycle, the building was dedicated to his memory.  But instead of being a somber occasion, the ceremony was “a celebration of an amazing man of many gifts,” said Interim Dean Alma Littles, M.D. The occasion also celebrated the clinic’s five-year anniversary.

“No one was more proud of this facility and its impact on this community than Dr. Dan Van Durme,”  Littles said. “His vision for, and commitment to, developing a teaching clinic that would serve patients who did not always have access to care, and provide a practice site where students could learn the art and science of medicine, was central to FSU PrimaryHealth™ becoming a reality.”

Interim Dean Alma Littles, M.D.
Alma Littles, M.D.

She thanked FSU’s administrative leadership and the FSU Board of Trustees for approving the college’s request for the change that will forever connect Van Durme’s name to the facility, the FSU PrimaryHealth™ Daniel J. Van Durme, M.D., Building.

Van Durme held many positions and titles during his almost 20 years at the FSU College of Medicine, the last being senior associate dean for clinical and community affairs and chief medical officer. The face and voice of FSU's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, he was beloved by colleagues, staff, students and alumni, who generously donated to the Daniel Van Durme, M.D., Memorial Scholarship Fund created shortly after his death.

His widow, Pat Van Durme, helped Littles introduce the first two scholarship recipients, third-year medical students Nora Albibi and Amber Dudek. Both are part of the Family Medicine Scholars program he helped create and “embody Dan’s commitment to the practice of family medicine,” Littles said. Each received $2,500 to help defray the expenses of medical school, and a big hug from Van Durme's wife.

From left, Amber Dudek, Pat Van Durme, Nora Albibi
From left, Amber Dudek, Pat Van Durme, Nora Albibi. (Photo by Robert Thomas, FSU College of Medicine)

Afterward, Pat Van Durme spoke about her late husband’s love for his colleagues and his students. Dinner conversations were filled with details about who was doing what, she said, which he shared with enthusiasm.

“I know a lot about all of you,” she jokingly warned the crowd.

In early 2015, he began a “gratitude journal” in which he entered three things each evening that he was grateful for that had happened that day. Some were mundane; others merely puzzling: “I took Pat out for yogurt and she forgave me.” His wife had no idea what infraction she had forgiven him for, but she was glad the frozen yogurt was enough. The crowd laughed and concurred.

There was only one journal entry in all capital letters before he ceased writing in May, which is when things get really busy at the College of Medicine and New Year’s resolutions can fall by the wayside: “POSSIBLE FSU MEDICAL CLINIC IN THE WORKS.”

When he later took his wife to the future site of FSU PrimaryHealth™, it was a far cry from what it would become, but he vividly described for her what would go where.

“I could see it all,” she said, smiling at the memory, “through his eyes.”

Some of the Van Durme family on the front row at the building dedication. Dan and Pat Van Durme's two grandchildren are at near the far end of the row. (Photo by Robert Thomas, FSU College of Medicine)
Some of the Van Durme family who attended the May 30, 2024, building dedication were seated on the front row with Pat Van Durme. (Photo by Robert Thomas, FSU College of Medicine)

All three of their children, the spouse and significant other of two of them, and the two grandchildren she described as “the light of our lives” were there, as well as one of her husband’s brothers, Matt, and his girlfriend, Susan; his sister Claire, whom she described as “my sister, too”; and her best friend, Vicki Tangney, who helped her navigate her journey of loss when DVD died. Many extended family members and friends from the Tampa and Orlando areas also made the trip for the dedication, as well as local friends, colleagues, and members of the community the clinic serves.

Earlier in the ceremony, FSU Senior Vice President for Finance & Administration Kyle Clark, who also spoke at the college’s Celebration of Life ceremony for Van Durme last fall, said the formal naming in the building meant “the house that DVD built” was no longer just a phrase in his mind.

Cyneetha Strong, M.D., co-medical director at FSU PrimaryHealth™ who has been affiliated with the college since its founding, recalled the day three or four years before the dream became reality that Van Durme approached her about his vision for opening a faculty clinic. “And if you know Dr. Van Durme,” she said, “you know it was a big vision!”

  Video synopsis of the Daniel J. Van Durme, M.D. celebration

Cyneetha Strong, M.D.
Cyneetha Strong, M.D.

Although they didn't speak, other honored guests included Dr. Jai Vartikar, FSU’s first lady; FSU Vice President for Student Affairs Amy Hecht; FSU Vice President for Research Stacey Patterson; Tom Block, executive director of the Capital Medical Society; Pam Irwin, former director of the Capital Medical Society; Tallahassee Mayor Pro-Tem Curtis Richardson; Dean Watson, M.D., vice president and chief integration officer at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare; leaders of Sabal Palm Elementary School, Tallahassee’s community partnership school through the Florida Children’s Home Society; Children's Home Society head Anne Munson; and Jay Millson, executive vice president and CEO of the Florida Academy of Family Physicians, of which Van Durme was a past president. He was also a member of the board of directors of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).

Pat Van Durme was notified recently that her late husband would be honored at this fall's annual meeting of AAFP with its John G. Walsh, M.D.,  Award for Lifetime Contributions to Family Medicine, one of the highest honors awarded by AAFP, based on his dedicated and varied service to family medicine. 

Pastor Jasmine Sailor
Pastor Jasmine Sailor

The ceremony concluded with a stirring a capella rendition of “Lean on me” by Pastor Jasmine Sailor and a countdown to dropping the tarp over the new sign. Littles invited the crowd to join in the family activities celebrating both the anniversary and Van Durme, “who was fond of reminding us, 'Everybody can be a health care hero!'”

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