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Former Sen. Durell Peaden stable in Pennsylvania after open heart surgery

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Former state Sen. Durell Peaden is stable in Pennsylvania after having double bypass surgery June 2. Peaden was traveling with his wife when he had the heart attack and was admitted to the hospital.

Friends say he is in stable condition and should be able to return to Florida in the next few weeks.

Peaden is the chairman of Florida Health Choices and since retiring from the Senate has kept an interest in graduate medical education. Florida Health Choices would have played a role in the expansion of Medicaid under the Senate’s proposed “FHIX” health plan.

Though he likens himself to an “old country doctor,” the image belied his political abilities, where he quickly became a force in the area of healthcare policy. He was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1994. He switched parties to Republican in 1997 and was elected to the Senate in 2000. He was term limited in 2010.

Peaden was the longtime architect of healthcare spending in the Senate and was influential in developing substantive healthcare policy. Peaden championed a medical school for Florida State University and was the driving force behind the college’s design, tapping into regional campuses across the state to teach students about geriatric care, primary care, and the challenges of providing health care in medically underserved areas.

Though he was a physician and saw patients until 2000. when he closed his practice, Peaden often was at odds with organized medicine during the medical malpractice sessions and special session in Tallahassee in the early 2000s.

“Mistakes are made. You can’t totally disregard what happens,” Peaden told the online news publication Health News Florida in 2010. “You’ve got to be fair to everybody on that issue.”

State Sen. Don Gaetz announced the news of Peaden’s heart attack on the Senate floor Monday.

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