December 1, 2022
For nearly 3 decades, visitors to Princeton Community Hospital in West Virginia would likely hear a page for “Dr. Dad” or “Dr. Gene” summoning either Generoso Duremdes, MD, FACS, or his son, Gene Duremdes, MD, FACS, to care for a patient or, perhaps, participate in a meeting.
“These nicknames are terms of endearment,” said the junior Dr. Duremdes. “And I think they show the loyalty, love, and support that we’ve had all these years from our community and the people at our hospital.”
The father-son duo recently answered a different kind of call to action.
Together with their spouses—Janelle Duremdes, MD, and Mary Duremdes, RN—they are sponsoring the Duremdes Family Travel Award, an ACS fund that provides international physicians, specifically Filipino surgeons, with the opportunity to attend and participate in the annual Clinical Congress.
“My parents came from a very rural area in the Philippines, and they want to provide an opportunity for some of the young surgeons—who might not have the resources to make it to Clinical Congress—to be exposed to the latest research and trends in surgery,” explained Dr. Gene Duremdes.
“Karen Hope A. Dalmacio, MD, FACS, the inaugural recipient of the award, sent us this short letter describing her journey to Clinical Congress as not only a highlight of her career as a surgeon, gaining knowledge by attending the lectures, but also as something that helped her personally fight her own breast cancer,” said the senior Dr. Duremdes. “Dr. Dalmacio continued her practice as a surgeon and became an inspiration, not only to her colleagues, but also to her patients.”
During the meeting, Dr. Dalmacio was able to see her mentor, ACS Past-President Patricia J. Numann, MD, FACS, honored with the ACS Lifetime Achievement Award. Their interactions during Clinical Congress were especially compelling as Dr. Numann was the spark that inspired the Duremdes family to create this traveling fellowship.
“When I was serving as the President of the ACS West Virginia Chapter in 2013—which was actually 20 years after dad served in that same position—we had the privilege of having Dr. Numann as the representative from the College to the chapter,” explained Dr. Gene Duremdes. “While we were sharing a wonderful evening of dinner and fellowship, we found out that Dr. Numann had spent a lot of time in the Philippines and that she loved her visits there. My parents were touched by her fondness for their birthplace and how she spoke about the need for the College to reach out to the international surgical community and share the wealth of information and resources that the ACS has to offer. So, from that brief encounter was born the idea of the traveling fellowship—it literally began just as a conversation during dinner.”
In the ACS Foundation 2019 Annual Report, Dr. Dalmacio described her experience observing Dr. Numann receive the College’s Lifetime Achievement Award: "It was through that recognition that I was inspired by her work, her persistence as a physician, her strength as a female surgeon, and, above all, her excellence. The experience of witnessing such a momentous event for her was more than enough to inspire me to strive more in doing my part as a member of my surgical community.”
Following Dr. Dalmacio, the second recipient of the Duremdes Family Travel Award was Leah Ruth Failagutan Porras, MD, in 2020. Due to the pandemic, Dr. Porras’s scholarship was deferred to Clinical Congress 2023.
The Duremdes family arrived in the US in 1962 at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Elizabeth, NJ. Dr. Duremdes senior and his wife later trained in New York City—at Albert Einstein Medical Center and Fordham Hospital, respectively.
Dr. Duremdes senior took a job at Princeton Community Hospital in 1969 and is the longest-serving physician at that center. His son joined him in 1993 as a general surgeon, and for many years he performed traditional laparoscopy alongside his father.
“When I first started showing an interest in surgery, Dad said, ‘If you’re interested, you really need to see what it’s like to be a surgeon.’ So, I started scrubbing with him in high school, back in the days when you were allowed to do that. I learned so much, even by the time I was out of high school and college, from a surgical standpoint. It’s been a wonderful working relationship—and it’s almost not even father-son. It’s almost like we’re friends. We know each other’s techniques to the point that we didn’t even talk to each other much in the operating room because we knew exactly what we were going to do. It’s almost like that sixth sense, that other unwritten language, that we knew each other so well.”
The senior Dr. Duremdes added, “I consider it a blessing and an honor to be able to work with and teach my son and to help him grow and develop into the surgeon that he has become today.”
Since 1989, the ACS has acknowledged individuals who have distinguished themselves through their exemplary investments in the mission of the College and in philanthropy with the Distinguished Philanthropist Award.
The Board of Directors of the ACS Foundation presented the 2020 and 2021 Distinguished Philanthropist Awards to the Duremdes Family and Charles E. Lucas, MD, FACS, at its annual donor recognition luncheon on Monday, October 17, at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego. The award recognizes the Duremdes Family and Dr. Lucas for their philanthropic endeavors, service to the surgical profession, and long-lasting contributions to the medical community and the ACS.
For Dr. Duremdes senior, looking back at his life experiences has made him realize the importance of giving back in order to support other surgeons’ opportunities for education and training.
“Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941; Manila, in the Philippines, was bombed and destroyed the following day on December 8, along with the American and Filipino armed forces,” recalled Dr. Duremdes. “My parents were teachers, and we were all interred in the schools and forced to learn Japanese in order to teach the younger generation. My father, along with two other ROTC [Reserve Officers’ Training Corps] men, secretly built a boat, which took over a year. In the middle of the night our families escaped into the Davao Gulf only to be caught in a typhoon that capsized the boat. For 5 days and 4 nights we were stranded on the capsized boat in shark-infested waters. We were all saved, praise the. Lord, except my mother suffered from pneumonia and, without adequate antibiotics, she passed away. This experience inspired me to work hard, go to college and medical school, become a doctor, and to give back to my rural Philippine community.”
Dr. Gene Duremdes added: “Receiving the Distinguished Philanthropist Award is an honor for our family. With our traveling scholarship, we want to help rural surgeons in an underdeveloped country learn new information and technology and have the opportunity to meet and network with other surgeons at Clinical Congress that they never would have been able to meet otherwise.”
The Duremdes family has had its own remarkable experiences during Clinical Congress. In the fall of 1988, the senior Dr. Duremdes attended a lecture presented by Eddie J. Reddick, MD, FACS, and William B. Saye, MD, FACS, who were among the first to perform laparoscopic cholecystectomy in the US. That lecture kindled his interest in the once controversial new procedure, and in June 1989, Dr. Duremdes senior became the first surgeon in southern West Virginia to operate using this new technology.
The Duremdes Family Travel Award is a recent example of the family’s long and generous contributions to the ACS Foundation, which began in 1992 with financial contributions to the College’s International Guest Scholarship fund.
“I think philanthropy starts locally,” said Dr. Gene Duremdes. “Working with your local community is a great way to start giving back. If you want to make a larger impact, use some of the resources provided by the College. The staff at the ACS Foundation were instrumental in developing the Duremdes Family Travel Award. From our standpoint, it was relatively easy—we just let the ACS Foundation guide us and show us what to do.”
“The ACS Foundation is there for the members at whatever capacity they need,” added Dr. Gene Duremdes. “They are very receptive to working with each individual surgeon at any level of engagement.”
To date, 387 international scholarships have been funded by the ACS Foundation to Fellows from more than 80 countries worldwide.
Tony Peregrin is Managing Editor, Special Projects, Division of Integrated Communications, Chicago IL.