Dr. Arthur VanDerburgh Photo courtesy of his family

Dr. Arthur VanDerburgh, distinguished professor emeritus at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine, died Monday from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. He was 90.

Dr. VanDerburgh was among a group of physicians and administrative staff at UNE who developed and implemented the curriculum of the College of Osteopathic Medicine. He was instrumental in developing the pathology curriculum and taught from 1978 to 2011. He was also head of its anatomical lab.

His daughter, Jane VanDerburgh of Biddeford, said his affiliation with UNE was among his proudest achievements. In 2019, he was recognized as professor emeritus.

Jane VanDerburgh said that at the start of every academic year, her father read the book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Seuss.

“He loved to teach,” she said. “I’ve been told by students he treated them all like equals. He taught them to be critical thinkers and loved seeing them succeed. … A student shared, ‘He was the nicest, most approachable, gentle man.’ Teaching came so easily to him. He was so proud to be an osteopathic physician and teaching students to be the best DO’s they could be.”

Dr. VanDerburgh grew up in Vermont and attended Middlebury High School. His daughter reflected on a defining moment in his life. She said that when he was 15, a teacher told him he would never amount to anything. That year, he met Judith Slocum, his loving wife of 64 years.

“He proved them wrong. He had this lifelong thirst for learning,” his daughter said.

He graduated from high school in 1949. He flunked out of college but joined the Army, where he served as a medic during the Korean War. Following his discharge, he attended Springfield College in Massachusetts and graduated from its pre-med program. In 1960, he graduated from Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine.

According to his obituary, which is expected to be published in Sunday’s newspaper, Dr. VanDerburgh served as medical director of the James A. Taylor Osteopathic Hospital in Bangor and health officer for the city of Brewer. In September 1966, he was commissioned as a medical officer in the Navy Reserve and held the rank of lieutenant commander. He served for seven years.

Dr. VanDerburgh practiced medicine for more than 20 years as chairman of the pathology department at the former Osteopathic Hospital of Maine, subsequently known as Brighton Medical Center. His obituary said he served as director of medical education and served on various committees. He also served on the hospital’s board of trustees for six years. He retired from Maine Medical Center in 1996.

His daughter said he loved his work and getting to the root of a patient’s illness.

“When a person was in surgery, he would get slides from the operating room and determine exactly what caused the patient to be sick,” she said. “He wanted answers. He was constantly wanting to learn.”

At home, he was a loving husband and devoted father of six children. He was remembered by his children this week as a kind and generous man.

“He was a wonderful power of example,” Jane VanDerburgh said. “I was inspired by his ability to reach out and talk to anyone. He was such a kind man. He could pick up a conversation with anyone. That was in his nature. He was curious. He was genuine.”

The VanDerburghs were active members of Clark Memorial United Methodist Church in Portland and later State Street United Church of Christ. They sang in the choir at both churches. The couple also shared a passion for traveling.

Dr. VanDerburgh was a member of the Purpoodock Country Club for nearly 40 years.

His wife died in August 2018. At the time, he was showing early signs of dementia. He went to live at Avita of Stroudwater, an assisted-living facility in Westbrook, where he was active in the community and well loved by the staff. Jane VanDerburgh said her father discovered a new passion for painting while there.

“My dad never picked up a paintbrush in his life,” she said. “This brilliant man picked up a paintbrush at 88 years old. He was really good. He really enjoyed painting.”

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