On Thursday, Oct. 12, Gundersen Medical Foundation presented the 2017 Founders Award in Medical Leadership to Martin Smith, MD, in recognition of his outstanding accomplishments in patient care, medical research and medical education. This is the Foundation's highest award bestowed on individuals.
In 1966, Dr. Smith joined the staff of the Gundersen Clinic in Internal Medicine and Hematology.
According to William Agger, MD, director of Medical Research who worked and trained with Dr. Smith, "He was a quiet, warm, thoughtful, organized doctor with a bright intellect. Dr. Smith joined Gundersen at a time of tremendous growth and transition into a strong academic institution. Gundersen was also way ahead in medical human research thanks to Dr. Smith.”
While Dr. Smith believed that patient care was his number one priority, he recognized the importance of research as well. "Good research leads to better patient care. It's also important for a successful medical education program. Cutting-edge research not only advances medicine, it also entices good physicians to come here,” says Dr. Smith.
When Dr. Smith arrived at Gundersen in 1966 there was not an established laboratory that would make it possible to do his hematology research. Dr. Smith is grateful that with help from Drs. Sig and Adolf Gundersen and the executive committee: "They set me up with a dedicated hematology lab and technician to do sophisticated studies.”
Dr. Smith remained the director of the Hematology Laboratory through his tenure at Gundersen. This lab laid the foundation for Gundersen's current world-class research program which includes Oncology/Hematology, Microbiology and Rheumatology Labs plus clinical trials and much more.
When it came to his work, Dr. Smith never let obstacles stand in his way. In 1975, when he was appointed director of Medical Research, a colleague expressed reservations because Dr. Smith was not a board certified pathologist. To prove he was the right person for the job, Dr. Smith sat for, and was awarded, board certification in clinical pathology and later in immunopathology.
He retired in 1999. During his 33 years at Gundersen, Dr. Smith served many roles including chairman for the departments of Internal Medicine and Laboratory Medicine. He also served with Western Wisconsin Technical Institute, College of American Pathologists and University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. He also helped establish Gundersen's Summer Research Fellowship Program to train the next generation of healthcare professionals. Even in retirement he continues to give his generous philanthropic support to Gundersen Medical Foundation.
The La Crosse community, generations of patients, the field of medical research and countless physicians he mentored owe Dr. Smith a debt of gratitude. It is with great appreciation that Gundersen Medical Foundation recognizes Dr. Martin Smith with its highest award.
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