Darrell Daniels, M.D.: Helping the Next Generation of Doctors

Darrell Daniels, M.D., graduated from medical school in 1969 debt-free. But today’s students often finish with more than $200,000 in debt, according to a national study.

“Back in those days, I don’t think many people were garnering debt like they are today,” said Daniels, who grew up in Norfolk’s Colonial Place and later attended the University of Virginia Medical School. “It never crossed my mind to go into debt, and if it had, I wouldn’t have done it and wouldn’t have gone to medical school.”

Daniels, who worked as an internist for about 45 years, was able to go to medical school thanks to the generosity of Florence L. Smith. Smith left a $460,000 gift in her will to the community foundation in 1952, which has generated more than $2.5 million to help more than 750 students become physicians and healthcare providers.

Darrell Daniels, M.D. and wife, Roseanne
Darrell Daniels, M.D. and wife, Roseanne

Daniels, who retired about eight years ago, said not many students can afford medical school without loans. To help, he contributes about $2,000 each year – the amount he got annually as a Smith Scholar – to help the next generation of doctors.

“I paid back the money that was given to me,” he said. “I plan to continue to do that as long as I can.”

Daniels and his late brother, John Horgan, both were Smith Scholars. Both attended Virginia Military Institute and then UVA’s medical school.

“The scholarship made it possible for us to afford it,” he said, explaining that his father died in a Navy aircraft carrier accident when Daniels was 10 years old.

The brothers began working together as kids, getting up early every day to deliver The Virginian-Pilot newspaper.

“When we went off to college, it was like a vacation; we got to sleep in a little bit instead of carrying the morning paper,” Daniels joked.

After medical school, Daniels interned at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut for a year and then went to the University of Arizona in Tucson for a year in internal medicine. After that, Daniels went back to New England to the Waterbury Hospital and did a single residency there. He stayed in Waterbury to establish and run his medical practice for about 45 years.

About a year ago, he and his wife built a house in the Smithfield area of Virginia, which is closer to where Daniels grew up in Norfolk. They enjoy traveling – mainly to Florida beaches. Daniels said he enjoyed running and skiing in his younger days, especially with his brother. He also flew Piper Cherokee planes and cruised on his sailboat.

Though medical school and the industry have changed, the generosity of Florence Smith lives on, and Daniels is helping to carry it further.

“The goodness of that woman and how much she did, I’d like to see that continue for all the dedicated students. Medical school is certainly not easy, and I doubt it’s going to get any easier,” he said. “If I can help in some way, that’s the least I can do.”

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