Dr. Brent Smith could have taken his medical degree and set up his practice in a city big enough for a Target and a Cracker Barrel.
Instead, he passed up more lucrative opportunities for a family medicine career in 14,000-population Cleveland, Miss.
“Part of me always wanted to go home,” said Smith, 32, who played high school football in Cleveland, where most of his family still lives. “I thought about doing orthopedic surgery when I was in medical school, but I didn't like not being able to connect on a personal level with patients.
“I realized family medicine is where I'm supposed to be. It's a very rural area here, and we need all the primary care we can get.”
Smith is being recognized for his devotion to the state's rural population with Mississippi's 2015 Rural Health Champion Award, an honor bestowed by the Myrlie Evers-Williams Institute for the Elimination of Health Disparities at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. It goes to “an unsung hero who makes a notable contribution to health, health care, or a health-care delivery system in a rural Mississippi community,” said Erica Collins-Young, recruitment and retention coordinator in the Institute's Office of Population Health.
The award is presented in conjunction with National Rural Health Day, celebrated the third Thursday in November. On Nov. 30, Gov. Phil Bryant is scheduled to sign a proclamation recognizing Nov. 20 as Rural Health Day in Mississippi. Collins-Young and others from the Institute honored Smith Nov. 19 at his office with a plaque and a celebration for family and staff.
A total 12 health-care providers were nominated for Rural Health Champion, all of them excellent candidates, Colllins-Young said. “What's so great about Dr. Smith is that he's a UMMC graduate,” Collins said. “He is a really great guy, very approachable, and he really cares about the children in the Cleveland area. Everyone has something positive to say about him.”