DR. GATOR: ‘Tis the Season for Football & Tailgating

Published: January 5th, 2010

Category: Alumni Affairs

James Duke, MD ’85, spent 14 years on the UF campus — as an undergraduate, as a medical school student and eventually as a surgical resident at Shands at UF. That was more than a decade to grow his Gator fervor.

“To this day, we rarely miss a home game,” said Duke, who has had season tickets to Gator games since 1975. “Once we upgraded our tickets in 1991, the Duke family tailgating tradition was born.”

Pam Duke knows how to put together the perfect Florida Gators spread, says her husband, James Duke, MD ’85. She organizes a different menu for each game, including this feast before the Gators game against the Tennessee Volunteers on Sept. 19. (Gators win 23-13).

Pam Duke knows how to put together the perfect Florida Gators spread, says her husband, James Duke, MD ’85. She organizes a different menu for each game, including this feast before the Gators game against the Tennessee Volunteers on Sept. 19. (Gators win 23-13).

Just as Duke, an orthopaedic surgeon practicing in nearby Ocala, and his wife, Pam, have kept the tradition of tailgating Saturdays alive and well on the western edge of the O’Connell Center parking lot, several groups of College of Medicine alumni, faculty, students and residents take part in one of Gainesville’s most favorite pastimes. And they’ve had a lot to cheer about this season. Despite controversy, concussions and criticism, the Florida Gators won the SEC eastern division title and went undefeated in the regular season, beating Tennessee, Georgia, FSU and LSU in Baton Rouge. They also beat the Cincinnati Bearcats in the Sugar Bowl Jan. 1.

“How can you not enjoy a season like this?” Duke asked.

About 35 rows east of the Dukes, you will find Jason Rosenberg, MD ’95, before every Gator home game. For the big contests, such as LSU or Tennessee, he calls in the big guns and sets up a large barbecue smoker right on Gale Lemerand Drive, just in the shadows of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Richard Van Eldik, MD '80

Richard Van Eldik, MD ’80

The parking space next to Rosenberg is reserved for Richard Van Eldik, MD ’80, an Ocala gastroenterologist, and his wife, Siglinda. The couple’s daughter Lauren is a second-year medical student at UF, which means plenty of her classmates also find their way to the Van Eldik tailgating spot.

The College of Medicine is well-represented around the entire tailgating area, not just the prime Bull Gator spots. At the corner of Newell Drive and Museum Road southeast of The Swamp, the department of surgery gathers under a Gator blue tent for every home game. Across the street from the surgeons, fourth-year medical students carry on the tailgating tradition.

Tailgating before home games at UF is nothing new for the College of Medicine. Students from the college’s first class of 1960 can still be spotted on campus for a football game and tailgating party. It’s more than just watching a game; it’s an opportunity to see old friends and former classmates.

“We look forward to game days so much,” Duke said. “We have anywhere from 15 to 50 people stop by.

“Tailgating is a wonderful way to hook up with old friends and foster that Gator spirit.”

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