Still Building a Healthy LegacyPosted on: September 30, 2011 in People & Places
How often have you pondered what kind of legacy you will leave for future generations?
Now well past his 85th birthday, Dr. David Wayne Smith, D.Ed., DABPS, FACFE, is still the director of the Arizona Arthritis Center’s Disability and Assessment Research Clinic (also known as DARC). Throughout his career Smith has worn many hats. Aside from being the DARC director, he wears the hat of a patient advocate, and yet another as a forensic examiner.
As a patient advocate, he serves as a liaison between patients and their health care providers to facilitate communication and ensure that patients, their families and health care providers are all working together to provide the best treatment possible.
And as a forensic examiner, he serves the legal system by evaluating the health and state of mind of individuals when such assessments are essential in answering a legal question, such as whether a person qualifies for disability benefits or whether they can stand trial.
And yet, no matter which hat he is wearing at a given moment, his focus is and always has been on the health of the individual, a legacy and a focus which he is continues to build on today.
“As a forensic examiner, I take everything into consideration. I review medical evidence and work with physicians in the community. I collaborate with the courts, social security administration, and the legal community.”
“When the College of Forensic Examiners was developed in the 1990s, I applied for membership and sent them my work.” Smith quickly qualified for membership, and today he is a fellow, the highest level of recognition the organization offers.
Smith’s Disability and Assessment Research Clinic is designed as an interactive lab for performing forensic examinations. Filled with boards of switches and levers and various odd looking machines, the interior of the small, unimposing house just west of University of Arizona Medical Center looks a bit like the bridge from the original Star Trek series. But each apparatus in the clinic is networked to a computer that evaluates an individual’s ability to perform physical tasks, from bending over to lifting a weight to flipping a switch.
“When I do an evaluation in my clinic, I gather the medical evidence and any evidence that’s available, and render a decision as to whether the individual is capable of working,” he says. “I’ve done that for most of my career, in addition to the work I’ve done at the U.”
Smith developed a unique approach to assessing disability and helps patients/attorneys win 95% of the cases he is involved in, applying his skills to the forensic evaluation of medical, psychological and other evidence.
“I am a stickler for objective evidence, which is often difficult to obtain,” he says, “especially from the patient.”
Early in his career Smith worked in the field of criminology, and when he was in graduate school at Indiana University, he served as an investigator for the dean of students. Even today, he still does forensics work for an attorney in Seattle.
In fact, Smith seems to be in constant motion, tirelessly creating his legacy – one that is intimately connected with the University community. He has been with the UA for over 56 years and served as an assistant to the College of Medicine’s founding dean, the late Dr. Merlin “Monte” DuVal.
Prior to his becoming part of the College of Medicine and creating the DARC, Smith completed post-doc training in rehabilitation. He then created an outpatient rehab center. Housed at the time in the east wing of the College of Education, he worked with arthritis and stroke patients, as well as the mentally impaired. It was Duval who recognized his contributions and brought Smith in to join the College of Medicine.
“I eventually found my home in the Arthritis Center in 1995,” he remembers. “When you’re at the UA as long as I’ve been, you see great changes. Sure, you experience disappointments, but also great successes.”
“To me, the University of Arizona is one great institution,” he says. “When I came here in 1955, there were 5,000 students and I used to park my car on the mall.”
The office Dr. Smith was housed in at one time was part of a horse barn. He recalls being here in the 1930s when friends of his, part of an ROTC Calvary unit, had to get up every day at 5:00 AM to go look after their horses.
But that is all history, and Smith is a man who drives into the future. What keeps him going? It’s simply the passion for the work and the people he helps every day.
“I decided a few years ago, that I would write articles for journals that are in physician's offices where patients can browse while waiting,” he says. “My articles are right out of my practice, emphasizing how to become a better advocate for yourself.”
“I guess at age 85, I’m too old to sail,” he jokes. And even though he might not be able to haul a jib line, his appreciation for what he has and what he can do today runs deep. “I have Marcene, who I’ve been married to for 63 years. I write, I have this program, this clinic, and these amazing colleagues,” he says.
What more could he want?