“The idea of being a family doctor in a small town always appealed to me...”
“DEDICATED EMERGENCY ROOM PRACTITIONER ”
It was in the eighth grade that Patricia Smith decided she would better peoples' lives by becoming a family doctor. "I've always wanted to do the best job possible," she explained "and the idea of being a family doctor in a small town appealed to me."
Not every small town family physician-to-be is as fortunate as Smith, who was able to fulfill her dream in her own hometown of Ridgway, where she opened a family practice in 1970, after completing her residency in cardiology at Barnes Hospital, in St. Louis "When I started out I did obstetrics, pediatrics, family medicine and the emergency room at the local hospital," she recalled.
She practiced for eighteen years in Ridgway, before moving to Eldorado to build another practice in family medicine and work in the emergency room of the local, 56-bed Pearce Hospital. Nine years later, she moved again, this time to the Harrisburg Medical Center, where she has since served the residents of southeastern Illinois in the emergency medicine department. Rep. John M. Shimkus (R-IL-19) nominated her to be a Local Legend by.
"Dr. Pat is one of the real heroes of rural medicine," says Marsha Oliboni, a colleague of Smith's at Harrisburg Medical Center. "She has a great reputation in the emergency medicine department for being kind, thorough and conscientious, as well as taking under her wing young women who aspire to careers in medicine. She always has time for a reassuring pat on the hand or a kindly smile for a scared and stressed patient. "
Why the special interest in the emergency room, where she began to volunteer during high school? "That was invaluable exposure to the long hours and learning that you need for ER work," Smith remembered. "Emergency room work is challenging and very satisfying. It can be stressful with decisions required in seconds, but it is also a way to make an immediate difference in somebody's life."
"Practicing medicine in rural communities, ER work was an accepted part of community medicine, not the specialty it has now become," says Smith. "I grew to like ER work because you are challenged and you can help. You are in the front lines working with patients; you have to make quick decisions and the best part is a 'thank you' from the patient."
Opens private practice in her hometown of Ridgway, Illinois, specializing in family medicine
Opens family practice in Eldorado, and also serves in emergency room at local hospital
Joins Harrisburg Medical Center, Harrisburg, as emergency room physician
Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia