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Dr. Cynthia D. Smith jokes that she was born to be an internist.
Dr. Smith's parents were both in the medical field; her father was
an internist and her mother was an intensive care unit nurse.
Growing up, she recalls spending time in the hospital while her
father completed his rounds on weekends. She believed that she grew
up so immersed in the medical world, that she hesitated before
choosing medicine because of the exposure that she had growing up.
Dr. Smith decided to spend her summers in college working in a
variety of different fields to explore career options, other than
medicine, including publishing, politics, and research all before
finally deciding that medicine was in fact the right career for
her. She earned her Bachelor's degree in Chinese History from Yale
University and her M.D. from Colombia College of Physicians and
Surgeons in New York, NY.
Dr. Smith was drawn to internal medicine through her exposure in
medical school. "I remember growing up and asking my dad why he
choose to be an internist. Whenever I would tell my friends that my
dad was an internist, no one understood what that meant. But when I
was in medical school and discovered what being an internist
entailed, I knew that was what I wanted to do."
Dr. Smith enjoys the combination of the breadth and depth of
content that internal medicine offers. "I feel as an internist that
there is no problem that an adult patient can walk in with that you
wouldn't feel comfortable addressing. I love the feeling of being
able to offer comprehensive care to all adult patients."
A Career in Medical Education
After medical school, Dr. Smith knew that she wanted to teach.
"If I had not gone into medicine, I would have gone into teaching,
and working in academic medicine allows me to do both." She
completed her internal medicine residency at the Massachusetts
General Hospital (MGH) and joined the medical staff at MGH and the
faculty of Harvard Medical School. She practiced and taught at
Massachusetts General Revere, a community health center outside
Boston where she was in charge of all of the Harvard medical
students who rotated through the center and continued to teach
internal medicine residents in the office and the hospital.
In 2000, Dr. Smith and her family relocated to the Philadelphia
area where she continued her career in medical education. She
joined the medical staff of Lankenau Medical Center, a community
based academic medicine center in Wynnewood, PA and eventually
became the program director of the internal medicine residency
program. She founded the Academic Hospitalist Program there which
is still thriving today.
In 2011, Dr. Smith joined the Education Division of the American
College of Physicians as a Senior Medical Associate for Content
Development. Dr. Smith was drawn to working at ACP because of her
interest and experience in education redesign - helping make
changes to the medical education process to keep it relevant and
thriving in the current healthcare environment. She had previous
experience working on educational redesign on a national level with
her involvement with the Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine
(AAIM) and the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM). She also
became directly involved with ACP while serving as the AAIM
representative on ACP's Education Committee.
In addition to her role in the Education Division at the ACP,
Dr. Smith is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Medicine at Pearlman
School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. "I feel that
I am the luckiest person in the world because I get paid to do
things that I love - teach and care for patients." Dr. Smith sees
patients one afternoon a week while teaching the internal medicine
students and residents at Penn.
Developing High Value Care Curriculum for Medical
Students and Residents
Currently in her role at ACP, Dr. Smith collaborated with the
AAIM to develop
ACP's High Value, Cost-Conscious Care curriculum for residents.
The curriculum is part of the College's
High Value Care initiative, a comprehensive program that
connects two important priorities - helping physicians provide the
best possible care to their patients and reducing unnecessary costs
to the health care system.
The demand for the High Value, Cost-Conscious Care curriculum
for residents was driven by the rising costs in health care
expenditures and the need to eliminate the estimated $250-325
billion dollars annually of unwarranted use of health care
services. "We have a belief that as physicians, it is part of your
professional responsibility to use health care resources
judiciously. Residents and students receive little or no training
on appropriate resource utilization and they rarely get feedback on
their personal resource utilization and its impact on the cost of
Dr. Smith and her colleagues working on the High Value,
Cost-Conscious Care curriculum chose to focus on residents since
they believe that residents are primed to be a large part of the
solution and can be viewed as change agents. The High Value Care
curriculum launched in July 2012 and since its launch, more than
1200 individuals have downloaded the publically available content;
of those, 16 percent have been residents and students.
"A major component of the curriculum is creating a paradigm
shift from the belief that more care is better care to a belief
that high value care is better care. We can't just give our
patients a list of recommendations. Instead we need to prioritize
the list to reflect things that are most effective and are a health
priority for each individual patient." Currently, Dr. Smith and her
colleagues are in the in the process of broadening the High Value,
Cost-Conscious Care curriculum audience from internal medicine
residents to medical students, non-internal medicine residency
training programs, and practicing physicians.
Dr. Smith enjoys the intellectual challenge that her job offers
and the opportunity it affords her to be creative. "I love that the
products that I develop have such a broad reach and allow me to
have an impact on a larger scale. I come to work every day and
think what is my contribution going to be today?"
In between balancing her role at ACP and teaching Penn
residents, Dr. Smith enjoys family time with her husband and three
October 2012 Issue of IMpact
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