By Kelvin Wynn, MD


Dr. Smith

I had the privilege of interviewing alum and faculty member Dr. Laura Smith for this edition of Alumni Chatter:

A native of Salem, Illinois and 2012 graduate of the UICOMP Family Medicine Residency Program at Methodist Medical Center (now UnityPoint Health), Laura Smith returned to Peoria in 2017 as a full time faculty member with the residency program. Prior to her faculty appointment, Laura provided full spectrum family medicine including maternity care in Hoopeston, Illinois.

Dr. Smith

Dr. Laura Smith

The following quote from a medical student suggests that Laura has successfully navigated the transition:

“Dr. Smith is an incredible physician and educator who consistently provided teaching during the service. She explained and discussed patients in a very pertinent and fruitful manner. She walked me through and discussed step-by-step patient procedures, which was especially helpful to me. Dr. Smith always made herself available and her enthusiasm and friendliness fostered in an ideal environment. I am very fortunate to work with Dr. Smith who really cares about students gaining the most from this rotation.”

KW: The enjoyment you get from going to Disneyworld has me curious about your favorite vacation spot.

LS: Anywhere that has mountains. I really love the Rocky Mountains and Smoky Mountains where my in-laws live.

KW: Your rap name as a resident was Dy$h because of your maiden name of Petrea. Do you have a favorite rap song and why?

LS: After a long deliberation, my favorite rap song is by Missy Elliott, Work It. This is the song I listen to all of the time. It’s such a fun song to dance to and the nonsensical words in the chorus always makes me smile.

KW: In the intro, I shared the quote from a medical student who rotated with you. The quote suggests your transition from being a full time practicing physician to full time faculty member has been successful. What has been the biggest surprise in your transition?

LS: My biggest surprise is one that I did not anticipate before I started the job. It is realizing that residents from now until I retire are going to quote me as I have quoted my teachers, including you. That was a surprise the first time I heard my name.

KW: What has been the biggest change in the residency program from your perspective in the five years you have been away practicing in Hoopeston?

LS: The biggest changes that I have noticed that are definitely positive are

  • Addition of a point-of-care curriculum. I think that as alumni we are all a little bit jealous because it is such a neat addition.
  • Focus on wellness, how it has been more formalized, that has been a change since I was a resident here.
  • NICU, we use to go to OSF for the rotation and now the residents can do the rotation at Methodist.

KW: Health care disparities is an important issue, rightly so, with disparities existing in Peoria and the surrounding area. The health care inequities faced by those living in rural communities are often overlooked when this issue is raised. You are not foreign to this form of health care disparity because of growing up in a small town and your practice experience in rural Illinois. What are your thoughts about how this disparity can be reduced or even eliminated?

LS: I think one of the biggest things especially in Illinois is opening up OB centers. There has been a trend unfortunately happening throughout Illinois that rural and critical access OB centers are closing. Therefore, women have to drive further away for services. Opening OB centers is an easy way to decrease disparity and increase patient safety.

I also think that increasing access to telemedicine services in rural areas would be helpful. We had access to tele psych, which was nice for our patients who could not travel. Another thing that would help all rural clinics especially in areas that have financially underserved patients would be the addition of case managers or social workers into the office and really utilizing that because so many patients have decreased transportation or resources.

Then lastly, something that we take for granted, in the more urban centers, but the town where I worked there were no dentists. The closest dentist was 30 minutes away and so having access or vans that would come in with those specialists that everyone needs on a regular basis.

KW: Your last point is interesting because we often forget about oral care, but the link to bad oral care to other health conditions is becoming more publicized.

LS: Yes, that was a big surprise to me when I moved to that area. We had one pharmacy and no dentist, so problem-solving things for patients was different.

KW: How will you impact the health of Peoria in your roles as a family physician and an educator?

LS: I think the impact that I want to have and hopefully it is what I actually do have is really helping energize residents to want to practice full spectrum care in all areas and all settings. I know not all of our residents are going to want to go to rural areas, but I think encouraging them to know that it is possible and it is a rewarding career. I know that we train excellent family medicine residents here but training them to be maybe be a bit more enthusiastic about full spectrum care. That is the impact I hope to have as an educator. In Peoria, in general, I think our residency has found those opportunities to impact the health of Peoria.

KW: Lastly, how do you want to be remembered by your patients (not that you will be retiring anytime soon)?

LS: That is a really good question. I always hope that all of my patients remember me as compassionate. I think them just knowing that no matter what is going on in their lives I am there for them through thick and thin. I hope they also remember me as an educator to them as well. One of my favorite things is actually teaching my patients as well as teaching residents. So yes, compassionate and an educator would be what I hope to be remembered by.

KW: Fantastic, Laura. Thank you for taking time to talk allowing our readers and your residency alums an opportunity to know you better.

For those of you who would like some biographic information on Laura Smith, MD, and/or other department faculty visit the Family and Community Medicine faculty page.

I would love to share with our readers and your fellow alums where you are, what you are doing, and the impact you are having on the community you serve, as well as the opportunity to interview you on Alumni Chatter. If you are interested, let us know on our Facebook page so we can get in touch. I hope to talk to you on the next edition of Alumni Chatter.

About the Author

Dr. Kelvin Wynn is the Thomas and Ellen Foster Endowed Chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine and Associate Professor of Clinical Family Medicine.