Featured Doctor

SMITH, Dr Oliver Dan

USA - Rural family doctor

Dan Smith M.D., FAAFP, CMD, Member of WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice pictured with his wife Vickie.

What work does Dr Dan do now?

Dr Dan Smith is currently conducting clinic in his retirement location in Island Park, ID, USA, four days a week. He came out of retirement to help at the clinic after a physician assistant terminated her contract the end of January, 2015. The Island Park Clinic is located 29 miles (47km) from West Yellowstone, Montana, the west gateway to Yellowstone Park.

Island Park Clinic is located in a rural vacation area at an altitude of about 6300 feet (2100m) in the Island Park caldera. It has two busy seasons, summer and winter. This area has a population of about 600 regular residents. During the summer, most weekends see 8,000-10,000 people. In the winter snowmobile season, good weekends will see 3,000-4,000 visitors to enjoy the one to two metres of snow. The clinic sees 12-20 patients a day in summer and winter and 3-5 a day in the shoulder seasons. The clinic is administered by the Ashton Memorial Foundation in Ashton, Idaho.

Interesting things about living near Yellowstone, USA?

Dr Dan and Vickie Smith retired to this area, in 2005. They love to travel from their retirement home in Island Park to watch geysers around the Old Faithful area of Yellowstone, a distance of 52 miles (84km).

“We like to take a lunch, a water bottle, and a book, check with the visitor center for approximate predicted geyser eruptions and walk out onto the Upper Geyser Basin and wait for geysers to go off. Some days we can see four or five geysers in a four hour period.” “We were really pleased to witness the eruption of Giant Geyser on November 7, 2006.” It erupts only sporadically to a height of 270 feet (90m), compared to 165 feet (55m) for Old Faithful Geyser. Giant Geyser is the second highest in the park. We saw it a second time in late summer of 2010. It has not erupted in the last five years. The eruption of Giant Geyser lasts for a full 90 minutes (compared to five minutes for Old Faithful).

Dr Dan’s past working life..

Dr Dan attended medical school in Memphis, Tennessee, graduating in 1969. He did a year of internship at the McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden, Utah and then served in the US Army for two years active and four years reserve duty. He started practice with his father, David H Smith MD, a GP, and they were later joined by a brother, Douglas R Smith, also a GP. Dr Dan certified with the American Board of Family Practice, in 1975, and has taken the recertification exams five additional times. Dr Dan served as a Medical Director in three long-term-care facilities in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He also became a Hospice Medical Director starting in 1983. He has served as President of the Idaho Falls Medical Society, President of the Idaho Academy of Family Physicians and as a board member and vice-speaker of the Idaho Medical Association. In 1997, the Idaho Academy of Family Physicians selected him as the Idaho Family Physician of the year.

Dr Dan closed his office in Idaho Falls, in 2006, and did long-term care and hospice home visits for another year. He and Vickie then went to Beijing, China and served as volunteers with the Society of General Practice of the China Medical Association. Vickie taught medical terminology in English, to Chinese Students. Dr Dan taught doctors and medical students at Capital University in Beijing, Peking Center for Health Sciences, and at over 20 different hospitals in Beijing. He also spoke at the Chinese Society of General Practice meetings in Beijing, Nanking and Shanghai.

His parting presentation, in 2010, was on the subject of “Who will establish the first Department of General Practice in a hospital in China?” He presented on how to set up a department using core privileges, similar to departments of family medicine in the US. Dr Smith obtained a Chinese Medical License and worked clinics at the 2008 Olympics, and in the Emergency Room of United Family Hospital, in Beijing, while there. He speaks Mandarin Chinese, which he learned as a young missionary.

After serving in China for 32 months, the Smiths returned home and submitted applications to serve a senior mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). They served 18 months in the Singapore Mission, assigned to serve in Sibu, Sarawak, Borneo, East Malaysia, where they performed leadership training for the Church in Sibu, in 2011 and 2012. In 2013, they were called to serve as Area Medical Advisors for the South America South Area, located in Buenos Aires, Argentina. They were assigned to help take care of the medical needs of eight LDS missions and about 2000 mostly 18-25 year old missionaries serving there. This 18 month assignment ended at 15 months when Dr Dan required decompression surgery on his back. He did however have a chance to pick up a lot of Spanish during his stay in Argentina.

About WONCA and the future

Dr Dan has been a member of WONCA since 2005. He was invited to be on the WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice in 1999, at the Kuching meeting. He has attended most WONCA meetings since 1995, and enjoys the contact with the members of the Working Party. He plans to continue his “out of retirement” work at the Island Park Clinic until this fall and then he and his spouse will become full time caregivers for Vickie’s 93 year old mother in Utah, USA.

Photo: Vickie at home in the snow.

Dr Dan’s motto is “You can always do something to help.