Although James “Jim” Free, MD ’60, a member of the UF College of Medicine’s first graduating class and the man behind the naming of Gatorade, passed away last October, the 87-year-old’s legacy continues at the institution where he received his medical education.
Free, who was posthumously named to the College of Medicine Wall of Fame during Alumni Weekend Oct. 7, dedicated his professional career to improving primary care, his family members say, believing that the best way to impact patients’ lives was to maintain a long-term partnership with them.
Free’s commitment to instilling these beliefs in the next generation of medical professionals came to fruition with a generous donation to the UF College of Medicine that was used to build the George T. Harrell, MD, Medical Education Building, which he named after one of his mentors, the college’s founding dean. The Harrell Medical Education Building is also home to the H. James Free, MD, Center for Primary Care Education & Innovation, which provides mentorship to students to encourage them to enter and remain in primary care careers.
“Dr. Free really valued connections with patients and saw the value in giving them his time,” says Robert Hatch, MD, director of the center and a professor in the department of community health and family medicine. “We aim to move that mission forward with the center by emphasizing the importance of those patient connections and identifying, teaching and implementing effective primary care practice models of the future.”
During their interactions, Hatch says Free, one of the UF physicians who helped found Gatorade, stood out as humble, gentle and kind. At a luncheon with medical students, faculty and staff in 2010, he says Free was surprised when students asked him to sign a bottle of Gatorade as a keepsake. He also signed one for Hatch, who still displays the memento in his office at the Free Center.
“As a society, we need to shift more resources to primary care specialties because of the difference they can make in terms of patients’ longevity and overall health,” Hatch says. “With the Free Center, the UF College of Medicine is making that investment in that type of care, which is the kind of patient-centered treatment Dr. Free valued so much as a physician.”