While on a boat tour of Lake Placid over Labor Day weekend, I listened as the tour guide talked about Camp Carolina, the historic lakeside home of one long-time resident, Dr. Howard Smith. The guide went on to describe Dr. Smith’s many trips around the world organizing and donating surgeries for people born with cleft lips and palates.
While on a boat tour of Lake Placid over Labor Day weekend, I listened as the tour guide talked about Camp Carolina, the historic lakeside home of one long-time resident, Dr. Howard Smith. The guide went on to describe Dr. Smith’s many trips around the world organizing and donating surgeries for people born with cleft lips and palates. This piqued my interest, partly because of the partnership that Bankers Healthcare Group has with Operation Smile, an organization that does similar work.
After returning from Lake Placid and the beautiful High Peaks area of the Adirondack Park, I started to research this well-respected doctor, and discovered that he had spent a long career helping people around the world and at home, including U.S. military personnel. Within a profession of admitted overachievers and tireless hard workers, Dr. Smith’s record stands out.
After graduating college in New Hampshire, he enrolled in the dental college at Tufts in 1942, but after receiving extra training in oral surgery at Yale New Haven Hospital, he enrolled at Yale University School of Medicine, ultimately specializing in otolaryngology. While serving as Chief of Otolaryngology at Andrews Air Force Base, he became interested in facial plastic surgery.
But behind this journey from Tufts to Yale to Andrews, (and then back to Yale and Columbia as faculty) there’s another story, of a hard working, highly-motivated man who grew up in rural Vermont, practiced dentistry while attending medical school, continued to advance his medical skills throughout his career and “paid it forward” by training medical students, residents and fellows well into his retirement. In 2009, Dr. Smith was honored at a retirement dinner at Columbia University. At that time he was praised for devoting “63 years to the field of medicine and dentistry and 20 years of pro bono service to Columbia.”
According to a State Department magazine, Dr. Smith was still visiting Honduras four times a year at 88 years of age, where he had significantly contributed to the establishment of the Honduran Medical Institute. Honduran doctors learned how to repair cleft lips and palates and other congenital or acquired deformities, and were provided funding and equipment for training in-country, as well as one year of clinical training in the U.S.
Dr. Smith’s admirable career is truly noteworthy. Would you like to share a story about a mentor or individual who inspired your healthcare career? Add your comment below.